Duluth Ordinance Could Give Part-Timers More Paid Time Off Than Full-Time Workers

This is what happens when elected officials get into the business of micromanaging how companies compensate their employees through mandated paid leave time. The Duluth City Council’s amateurish attempt to play Human Resources manager for the port city’s businesses led to an embarrassing outcome at the latest meeting of the Earned Sick and Safe Time Task Force, according to the Duluth News Tribune.

At a Thursday evening agenda session meeting, another complication came to light.

Council President Elissa Hansen and 2nd District Councilor Joel Sipress flagged a concern with the accrual system laid out in the proposed ordinance.

“We’ve identified what appears to us to be a glitch or a discrepancy in how the ordinance would operate, as currently drafted. And we do not yet have a solution, but we’re working on it, and we do not anticipate having a solution for Monday’s meeting,” Sipress said.

For every 30 hours on the job, the city wants employees to get an hour of paid leave off, capped at 40 hours a year for full-time employees. But part-time employees would accrue almost as much paid leave working just half time. And individuals working two part-time jobs could come out far ahead of a full-time employee.

A full-time employee working 40 hours a week for 50 weeks would log 2,000 hours in a year, accruing 66 hours of earned sick and safe time, but the actual benefit would top out at 40 hours each year.

Meanwhile, a part-time worker logging half as many hours would accrue 33 hours of earned sick and safe time. And a person working two half-time jobs would earn 33 hours from both employers — or 66 hours of earned sick and safe time in all.

“We’re all in agreement that we’re looking for an elegant solution that would not be, to quote the city attorney, ‘an administrative nightmare,'” said Sipress, adding that he would welcome suggestions.

Apparently the most obvious solution never occurred to Sipress and his colleagues on the council, namely, allowing companies to set their HR policies based on the bottom line and benefits package that attracts and retains employees.  The Duluth City Council still has at least two weeks to reconsider the paid leave proposal. Ultimately, of course, there are other options for local businesses, including Duluth’s sister city of Superior, Wisconsin.