Lawsuit Claims St. Paul Failed to Implement Own Sick Pay Policy

The St. Paul City Council imposed a controversial paid sick leave ordinance on all businesses last year. The ordinance allows employees to take up to additional six paid days off every year, essentially no questions asked.

In doing so, the powers that be largely dismissed warnings from business owners that the Earned Sick and Safe Time mandate would be a costly, logistical nightmare to implement.  Now it seems that’s exactly what appears to have happened–only not to a business but rather the city itself.

A former seasonal city employee has sued St. Paul for allegedly failing to implement the paid sick leave law for dozens of its own staff, according to the Pioneer Press.

The class action suit, served on the city last week, alleges that when Benjamin Smith tried to use sick leave in summer 2018, he repeatedly was refused and subjected to evasive, dismissive or intimidating questions. One supervisor asked if he was the worker who had been calling City Hall for clarification on the policy.

The city also allegedly failed to follow other procedures it requires of other employers.

Benjamin Smith said none of the city’s four aquatics centers carried posters indicating workers were entitled to sick leave, and there was no mention of sick leave in his employee handbook. Public notice is required under the 2016 ordinance, and employee handbooks in particular are specified.

“The city produces the posters,” said [attorney] Mark Smith [Ben’s father]. “The city has available posters that they didn’t put in their own break room.”

In fact, some city staff appear to have had trouble figuring out how to incorporate the paid sick and safe time policy into the work schedule from the start.

Mark Smith points to two internal notices he obtained from St. Paul Human Resources as evidence that the PTO policy caused confusion in the department, and maybe even inspired supervisors to try to hide the benefit so as to curtail unscheduled absences that could lead to temporary pool closures.

It’s unclear where the notices were circulated, but “it was never communicated to employees,” he said.

It all depends on the outcome of the Smith’s class action lawsuit. But from the looks of it, the new earned sick and safe time mandate could end up costing St. Paul taxpayers more, as well.