“A small Vancouver company with a single employee who telecommutes only one day per week from their home in Portland now has to grapple with this law,” said Clarence Belnavis, an employment law attorney at Fisher & Phillips LLP. “The sales person who regularly meets clients for lunch or coffee in Portland may also be covered… The reality is that Washington employers need to review the nature of the work being performed by their employees to verify which individuals are covered.”
Portland will join Seattle, San Francisco, Connecticut and Washington, D.C. as the only jurisdictions in the United States that require employers to provide sick leave.
Linda Frischmeyer, an employment law attorney with Landerholm, said that many small business owners in Clark County don’t realize that the new ordinance will affect them.
“There’s nothing illegal or improper, it just somehow seems less than fair because [business owners] don’t know about it,” she said.
While the new policy will affect many employers in Southwest Washington, not everyone is convinced that it will bring noticeable change.
“This topic hasn’t even come up to our attention yet,” said Bill Kolden, human resources director for the city of Vancouver. “We don’t anticipate there’s going to be much of an impact.”
One unintended caveat, warned Frischmeyer, is that companies may diminish their sick leave to comply with the new law.
“I’ve had clients saying things like, ‘I actually provide something better now, but I will have to take away benefits to come into compliance with this,’” she said.
Jordan Ramis Attorney Amy Robinson said that her reservation with the ordinance has nothing to do with the principle of it. Instead, she worried that uninformed business owners will fall into another trap.
“Rarely do I see businesses who are intentionally not complying with these laws,” she said. “But if they don’t know better, they could face penalties.”
For more coverage of Portland’s Protected Sick Time mandate, read Clarence Belnavis’ column, Portland’s paid sick leave, Vancouver’s issue?