Albuquerque Healthy Workforce Ordinance is Challenged Again in Court
Last fall, a sick leave initiative was introduced for Albuquerque employees. The Healthy Workforce Ordinance was slated to show up on the November 2016 ballot, but was pulled by a judge who stated that the full text of the ordinance must show up on the ballot. As the ballot only had room for a summary, the ordinance is now slated to show up on the October 3, 2017 ballot.
However, a lawsuit is challenging the legality of the ordinance and claiming that the ordinance uses “logrolling” an illegal practice that is constituted as voter fraud. Logrolling is the presentation of multiple presentations to voters without giving voters the right to individually vote on each issue. It’s a way to lump extreme or unpopular laws with a popular law so that it gets passed. Logrolling is illegal in New Mexico.
Even so, proponents to the ordinance claim that logrolling doesn’t apply to city ordinances.
26 businesses and trade organizations filed suit claiming that the proposed ordinance rolls 14 “non-interdependent” provisions and rolls them into one ordinance. The suit also claims that the ordinance is too broad because it applies to businesses outside of Albuquerque. A lawsuit against the Minneapolis Sick Leave Law claiming the same overreach was upheld earlier this year. The “single subject” argument was rejected in Arizona, where a new statewide sick leave law was just legalized by voters.
Healthy Workforce Ordinance Provisions
As it stands, the Healthy Workforce Ordinance would grant paid sick leave to all Albuquerque employees. Employees would earn sick leave at the rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked. Employers with over 40 employees would be required to grant up to 56 hours of sick leave each year to employees. Smaller employers, those with 40 or less employee would be required to grant up to 40 hours of paid sick leave to employers. This includes employers with even a single employee.
The ordinance includes all employees, including temporary, seasonal and part-time employees. Any employee who works in Albuquerque for at least 56 hours a year or more would be covered.
In addition, the ordinance would allow sick leave for employees’ need and for family member needs.
The ordinance is broad in its definition of family member. In addition to including spouses, domestic partners, children, parents, the ordinance also includes any relationship that is a committed relationship or any close relationship akin to family.
Employees would be able to use sick leave for illness, injury, health condition, medical care. They could also use sick leave for absences related to domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault.
Contested Parts of the Sick Leave Ordinance
Some of the controversial clauses of the ordinance includes the inability for employers to challenge the legitimacy of sick leave usage. Additionally, employees who file suits or claims against employers for noncompliance and are found to be false or fraudulent claims have no penalties or repercussions on them. This would create a situation where employees have nothing to lose and everything to gain by filing claim. Attorney fees are only mandatory for plaintiffs so businesses would rack up legal fees, but after winning the case, not be able to recoup the costs.
In addition, the language of the ordinance makes it practically impossible for employers to raise any questions about the use of sick leave and opens the ordinance up for employee abuse.
Another debated aspect of the law is the language which prohibits employers from reporting employees or employees’ family members to law enforcement who use sick leave. The plaintiffs argue that this adds a criminal element to the law that exceeds the powers awarded under Home Rule Law.
Small employers are anticipating extensive costs associated with maintaining compliance with the ordinance. The Sick Leave Ordinance required extensive records keeping and administrative duties, which can add costly administrative costs to small businesses that don’t already have the infrastructure in place to handle those requirements.
Continue connecting with SwipeClock through our blog to find out what happens with the lawsuit and whether or not the Sick Leave Ordinance makes it to Albuquerque voters in October.