Oregon’s Proposed Sick Leave Law Doesn’t Fit All
By Anna Mae Kersey
Senate Bill 454, which mandates that employers implement paid sick leave for employees, may leave small business owners and the agriculture industry in the dust.
SB 454 states, “Employers that employ at least 10 employees working anywhere in this state shall implement a sick time policy that allows an employee to earn and use up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year.” Employers with fewer than 10 employees must provide the same amount of sick time, but it can be unpaid.
For big businesses and corporations, this mandate might not pose a problem; many larger companies already offer competitive benefits packages that include paid sick leave and vacation time.
For small businesses and the agriculture industry, however, 40 hours of paid sick time per year translate into five days during which the employer will not only be short an employee, but will still be compensating that employee for his or her time.
According to the Associated Oregon Industries, 88,000 business owners in Oregon employ fewer than 50 people. Although the Senate had the opportunity to accommodate those industries, that motion failed. By forcing business owners to take a uniform approach, instead of one tailored specifically to best suit both the employer and the employee, this bill could have real economic consequences.
These business owners will now likely have to cut costs by downsizing their companies, lowering wages, and increasing prices in order to offset the mandate’s impact.
Anna Mae Kersey is a research associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market think tank. She recently graduated from Mercer University in Macon, Georgia with an Honors B.A. in Philosophy and is pursuing a Master’s of Liberal Arts at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico.