D.C. council approves sick leave measure

WASHINGTON The District of Columbia's City Council voted unanimously to require employers to provide workers with paid sick leave, making it the second city in the country behind San Francisco to pass such a measure.

However, officials of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, working together with other D.C. business groups and the Chamber of Commerce, persuaded council members to add several amendments that they say will help to blunt the billÕs impact on employers.

Under the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2007, employers with 100 or more employees must provide full-time workers with seven days of paid sick leave annually. Businesses with between 25 and 99 employees must provide five days of paid sick leave. Businesses with 24 or fewer workers must provide employees with three days paid leave.

One of the key amendments the RAMW lobbied for exempts tipped waitstaff and bartenders from the provisions of the law. In addition, those workers do not count toward to the total number of employees when determining the size of a business.

Another amendment states that employees must work for a year -- or at least 1,000 hours -- before being qualified for paid sick leave.

According to a third amendment, businesses claiming hardship under the law can apply for a waiver.

The measure could affect some 200,000 workers in the district that do not already have paid sick leave.

Mayor Adrian Fenty had said he opposed the bill but would sign it if it passed. After the mayor signs it, the bill is submitted to Congress for review.

According to RAMW director of operations Betsy Allman, the measure would not take effect until September at the earliest.

RAMW executive director Lynne Breaux said the measure spurred the restaurant community to take grassroots action. "Our membership really got involved," she said. "The charge was led by our chairman, Paul Cohn [of Capital Restaurant Concepts], and general counsel Andrew Klein."

About 15 states have introduced bills that would require employers to provide paid sick leave.