Denver Paid Sick Leave Ordinance Hotly Contested

Whether employers in Denver County will be required to provide paid sick leave will be decided by voters in the November election. The ordinance would require employers to allow full-time employees to accrue up to 72 hours paid sick time per year (40 hours for employers with fewer than 10 employees). Accrual would be prorated for part-time employees. Workers would begin earning sick leave upon hire and be eligible to use leave after 90 days. Sick leave, up to the employee’s annual maximum, would carry over from year to year. Employers who have paid-time-off policies providing leave sufficient to satisfy the ordinance will not have to provide more leave.

MSEC survey data show that 94 percent of Denver employers have some sort of sick leave benefit. Denver employers provide an average of eight sick days after the first year of service. The average maximum accumulation permitted is 57 days. Sixty-five percent of those surveyed allow sick leave carryover, and 12 percent allow annual cash out of sick leave.
This ordinance is hotly contested. Opponents argue that it would increase employers’ compensation costs and administrative burdens and drive new businesses elsewhere. Proponents say that businesses in San Francisco and Washington, with paid sick leave ordinances in effect, have reported little to no negative impact on profitability.
A recent news article said proponents believe mandating paid sick leave will reduce employee turnover. MSEC has reviewed its data on nonexempt employee turnover rates versus annual number of sick days available and found no clear evidence to show that more sick days means less turnover.

Denver employers who already provide sick leave at the level required by the ordinance may wonder if this should be a concern for them. These employers should be aware that the ordinance creates an administrative complaint procedure and a cause of action, where none existed previously, against employers alleged to have violated it. This means that employers will be forced to expend time, energy, and money defending claims even where no violation is found.
One final note: the ordinance will apply to all employees working in Denver County. This means employers not located in Denver will have to comply for Denver employees.
MSEC will continue to follow the proposed ordinance and will help our members comply, if it passes.