Local businesses react to new wage hikes and sick leave requirements

Local businesses react to new wage hikes and sick leave requirements

SPOKANE, Wash. - For the city of Spokane, the passage of Initiative 1433 doubles down on employee leave requirements set by the City Council earlier this year.

In January, the council approved an ordinance that requires business owners to provide Earned Safe and Sick Leave to their employees starting in January 2017. This requirement, coupled with Initiative 1433, could be a death knell for some smaller businesses.

"Yeah we want to do this, but is there enough money in the checking account and if there's not what do we have to do to get that money in there," said Mark Starr, owner of David's Pizza.

KXLY 4 spoke with Starr and other concerned business owners back in January, when the ordinance passed.

"We've gone through three pay increases with minimum wage already and we have not raised our prices and we don't have the profit to cover that so now we have to cover this too," said Judy Beebe, co-owner of Sweet Frostings.

Spokane's policy calls for employees to earn one hour of leave for every thirty hours worked.

"That would require anywhere from 3-5 days a years for a year round, full time employee," said Erik Poulsen

Poulsen works in public policy for GSI. He says, at this time, it's hard to know much the changes will cost for different business. But, one thing is for sure.

Small businesses will probably be the hardest hit," Poulsen said. "They don't have big human resources departments to institute these new policies," he said.

In addition to its gradual minimum wage increase, Initiative 1433 includes its own policy for safe and sick leave, requiring one hour of leave for at least every 40 hours worked.

"Businesses are going to have to figure out the difference between the two and make the needed changes to comply with either the state law or the city policy," Poulsen said.

The ordinance is densely layered and, to many, vague. Who exactly does it apply to? Under what circumstances can it be used?

GSI hopes to help business owners navigate this transition.

"Our primary role is to educate businesses on the impact of this ordinance," Poulsen said.

This issue will be addressed at the Spokane City Council meeting next Monday. If this could affect you or your business, GSI strongly encourages that you attend that meeting and make your voice heard.