Small business owners hope city council repeals sick leave ordinance

SPOKANE, Wash. - Some small business owners are hoping the City of Spokane will repeal a sick and safe leave ordinance passed at the beginning of this year, especially now that a statewide initiative has passed.

The Spokane City Council is expected to vote Monday on several changes and clarifications to the wording of the ordinance, but several business owners want them to get rid of it all together.

Spokane's paid sick and safe leave ordinance has been a hotly disputed issue in the city for more than a year. Organizations like the Washington Policy Center have been speaking out against the ordinance.

"Policies like this are generally not a good idea, mandatory one-size-fits-all policies," said Chris Cargill with Washington Policy Center.

He says the ordinance will damage small businesses who must provide the same sick leave policy as large businesses.

"There is no exemption for the smallest business, so this would really hurt the smallest of the small businesses in the City of Spokane," he said.

One of those small businesses against the ordinance is Ben & Jerry's in River Park Square. The ice cream shop employs about 12 to 15 people year-round. Owner Keri Conner says she already makes accommodations for employees who need time off, and says many other businesses do as well.

"If an employee gets sick, we try to switch their shifts around so that they don't lose money," Conner said. "We never want somebody to not be able to pay their bills, so we work as a team and help each other out all the time."

Supporters of the ordinance say it will benefit employees, giving them more flexibility if they are sick or if am emergency happens. But opponents say there will also be consequences to offset the costs, including fewer raises and less time given for vacation. And Conner says putting the city's policy in place next year, then changing to the state's policy from Initiative 1433 in 2018 will be a financial burden.

"I'm going to have to have a lawyer. I'm going to have my accountant redo things, set up the policy, figure it out for me. And then to have to do it for the city ordinance and then to do it for the state, that's hard on a small business," she said.

Several small business owners plan to attend the city council meeting to discuss the financial impact they say this will have on their business. But, there's a slim chance the council will repeal it.