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St. Paul to Weigh Citywide Paid Sick Leave Mandate

On the heels of a debate in Minneapolis over whether the city should require employers to offer paid sick leave, neighboring St. Paul is also taking up the issue. Mayor Chris Coleman made the announcement this week, saying the public and an appointed task force would be called upon to help shape a possible citywide mandate.

Even as the task force takes shape, with members being chosen by the mayor and city council, the city itself is adjusting its paid sick time policy to extend the benefit to all of its employees by January 1, 2017. That means the 1,018 temporary city government employees and about 700 interns will join all full- and part-time regular city employees in receiving paid sick leave.

“Extending earned sick and safe time to the temporary and seasonal employees within city government is the right thing for our community to do,” said Coleman in statement January 26. “Many St. Paul families are headed by either single parents who work or two parents who both work full or part time. Not only will this policy change promote good public health by enabling sick people to stay home and avoid spreading illnesses, but it will better reflect the realities and needs of our families here in St. Paul.”

In its announcement, the city cited a 2014 study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research that showed only 24 percent of food preparation and service workers in the U.S. have access to earned sick and safe time. In Minnesota, at least 208 outbreaks of foodborne illness were linked to employees working while sick between 2004 and 2013.

“The workers who do not have access to earned sick and safe time work in professions where they interact with more people on a daily basis than a politician can hope to reach in a month,” commented Ward 3 Councilmember Chris Tolbert. “This is a huge public health concern when the people who are making your burrito or bagging your groceries are sick at work.”

If the city council passes its resolution February 3, the task force would present its recommendations to the St. Paul Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity Commission by May 17, which in turn will make recommendations to the city council with the goal of implementing an ordinance next year.

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