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City Council Approves 80-Hour Mandated Sick Leave For Large Employers In City

A COVID-19 testing sign is pictured in this undated photo.

Photo by Alexander Nguyen

Above: A COVID-19 testing sign is pictured in this undated photo.

The San Diego City Council voted Tuesday to require temporary supplemental paid sick leave for full-time San Diego staffers of companies that employ more than 500 workers in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Councilman Chris Ward said the ordinance is a stop-gap measure between now and Sept. 30, the last day Gov. Gavin Newsom has to sign or veto bills before they become law. A pair of bills, one from the Assembly and one from the Senate, on the governor's desk would make the San Diego ordinance moot.

Both the local ordinance and the two state bills were drafted in response to the federal Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, which went into effect April 1. The federal measure mandates certain employers provide their employees with paid sick leave when they are unable to work or telework for COVID-19 related reasons, but applies only to businesses with fewer than 500 employees, leaving out big companies around the country.

The local ordinance, which passed on a 7-2 vote, applies to large employers, of which San Diego has 147 within its borders. It mandates that those employers must provide 80 sick leave hours for COVID-19-related reasons.

Exemptions to the ordinance include first responders, healthcare workers, delivery workers and "companies with generous leave policies already in place defined as providing a minimum of 160 hours annually," a staff report on the ordinance reads.

Councilman Chris Ward proposed the ordinance. He said it was past time the city stood up for workers who are employed by some of the United States' largest companies. He pointed out the pandemic has disproportionately impacted Black and Latino San Diegans, as well as poorer workers of all races. As such, those working in lower-paying jobs for large companies such as fast- food restaurant and retail chains would benefit the most from the mandated sick leave.

Councilmen Scott Sherman and Chris Cate cast the dissenting votes.

Sherman had concerns about the ordinance itself, but also said no input had been sought by the city from the employers.

"This is a political stunt," he said. "The unions are using COVID- 19 to pass things they've wanted to pass for a long time."

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