Sick-Leave Measure Would Affect All Albuquerque Employers

September 8, 2017

The Albuquerque election in October includes a paid-sick-leave ballot measure that would affect employers doing business in the city, including small businesses and nonprofits.

The highlights:

  • The  Albuquerque Healthy Workforce Ordinance would require all employers to allow all employees (part- and full-time, temporary and regular) to earn sick leave at the rate of one hour of leave per 30 hours worked, starting on the employee’s first day.
  • Employers who have even one employee–as long as the employee works at least 7 days in a year—must follow the policy.
  • Employers with 40 or more employees must provide 7 days a year of paid sick time.
  • Employers with fewer than 40 employees must provide 5 days a year of paid sick time.
  • Use-it-or-lose-it policies would be outlawed. Year-to-year carryover would be required.
  • Employers will not be able to ask for documentation to ensure that the paid sick leave is for a covered purpose unless the leave is more than two days in a row. An employer seeking documentation for a one- or two-day sick leave must pay for the doctor visit.
  • The ordinance presumes a violation when an employer takes any adverse action against an employee who in the past 90 days took sick leave. If pressed, employers would have to prove otherwise in court.
  • If employees sue, they could win triple damages including lost wages, possible reinstatement, civil penalties of $50 per week per employee, and attorney fees. However, if the employer prevails, it wins nothing.
  • The ordinance allows for class action lawsuits.
  • The City Attorney is motivated to audit and investigate employer records, as the City will receive any penalties paid.
  • The City Council would not be allowed to change the law to alter the effective date or reduce the requirements. Only another, separate vote by Albuquerque citizens can alter the burdens placed on employers.

Many businesses have taken issue with the ordinance being placed on the October 3, 2017, ballot. The New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry sued on its own and others’ behalf, challenging the City of Albuquerque’s authority to place voter-initiated legislation on the ballot. The state district court dismissed the lawsuit and the New Mexico Supreme Court chose not to hear the matter on appeal.

The bottom line: This ordinance is extremely important to Albuquerque businesses, large and small, and if it passes, businesses may require assistance to ensure their work policies and procedures remain in compliance.

We stand ready to help.

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