Will new paid sick leave ordinance get put on hold?

On May 27, the Minneapolis City Council passed a groundbreaking ordinance requiring businesses in the city to provide paid sick leave to their workers. The paid sick leave law was the first passed by a Midwestern city, although not the first nationally. MinnPost provided some excellent coverage of the final vote, which ended up being unanimous.

Paid sick leave has become a hot political issue, as some argue that families and consumers alike benefit when employees are not forced to work their jobs while sick. Although other topics have eclipsed the issue in this unusual election year, the Democratic candidates and even some Republican presidential contenders were discussing paid sick leave plans late last year.

In Minneapolis, workers and business owners packed hearings to air their different takes on the issue, but ultimately, consensus was found--at least on the city council.

"Just five months after an acrimonious city budget debate that left the council divided, the 13-member council has now mustered unanimous support for a pair of policies many members called historic," wrote Peter Callaghan. "...Mayor Betsy Hodges called the paid leave ordinance a 'landmark measure,' saying the lack of paid sick leave is a public health issue, and that the lack of paid leave falls most-heavily on lower wage workers that are predominantly women and people of color."

However, there are signs that the debate is not over. In an opinion piece published June 2 in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Peter Nelson, vice president for the Center of the American Experiment, argued that the city may not have legal standing to pass such a law. "Paid sick leave is clearly a matter of statewide concern and, therefore, should not be subject to local regulation," Nelson wrote. "...A city can pass a law on issues of statewide concern only when it is given explicit authority from the state." This may signal that business groups are preparing to challenge the new ordinance in court, trying for a ruling that would bounce the issue to the state legislature, which may be less friendly to the concept. Whether such a lawsuit can be successful remains to be seen, but the future of Minneapolis' paid leave ordinance seems much less clear than it did at the beginning of the month.

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