SEATTLE - Businesses in Seattle have adjusted their policies and budgets in response to a new city ordinance
that requires them to offer paid sick leave for illness, family caregiving or domestic-violence situations.
The ordinance, which goes into effect this weekend, contains specific rules for accruing the time off for workers at large and small companies. For some business leaders, however, it's the spirit of the new law that matters most.
Joe Fugere, who founded and runs Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria restaurants, calls it humane and sensible to pay workers for an occasional day off.
"They've earned it. They are part of the fabric of the culture of the company. They're not a commodity, or just another expense line on a P-and-L. Some business owners may look at it that way. But without them, my business wouldn't be where it is today, and this is one way to recognize that."
Fugere says they'd been thinking about offering paid time off after an employee survey a few years ago showed their workers ranked it second only to health insurance on a list of benefits they would appreciate. Judging from the response so far, he says, it will also be a morale-builder.
Fugere, whose restaurant chain employs 170 people, knows that some small-business owners resent having another law to follow and are concerned about the additional expense of paid time off. But in his company, he found that the bottom line won't change that much.
"In my case, it's not even whether or not it's going to pay off - it's just whether or not it's the right thing. It's going to be about a half of a percent more of an expense, to me. I'm almost embarrassed that we didn't do it sooner."
The new policy is enforced by the city's Office of Civil Rights. About 60 percent of Seattle workers already have paid sick leave. The city says the ordinance is for those who do not.
The policy is online at seattle.gov