Study finds many companies ignoring Seattle's sick leave law

SEATTLE -- A new study shows thousands of Seattle workers may be getting the short end of the stick when it comes to paid leave for being sick or for family emergencies. Last year, the city passed an ordinance forcing companies to offer paid leave, but the study shows many are just ignoring it.

The ordinance, passed in September, required more than 11,000-thousand Seattle businesses -- most of them family-owned businesses that employ less than 50-workers -- to provide paid sick and emergency leave to all their workers.

However, John Burbank, executive director of the Economic Opportunity Institute, worries a lot of businesses aren't complying with the ordinance, which he says is designed to make workers more productive.

"It means that they don't have to make that Sofie's Choice of going to work if they're sick because they're scared of, 1) losing income or, 2) losing their job," Burbank said.

According to the University of Washington study, out of 1,400 randomly-selected companies, 27 percent of businesses don't offer paid leave to full-time employees. More than half don't offer paid leave to part-time employees.

City council members, who reviewed UW findings Wednesday, chalk-up that non-compliance to and employers and employees just not knowing the ordinance exists.

"I think the city of Seattle did a robust survey, but what it's really lacking is what are the impacts on businesses," said George Allen with the Seattle Chamber.

Allen says enough employers do know, however they're worried about what it will mean for their bottom line.

"Small and independent businesses are going to have to increase their costs, they're going to have to restructure their HR departments," Allen said. "They're going to have to have a serious talk with their workers, saying the city is making us do this -- is this really what you want.?

Other cities like New York, Washington D.C. and San Francisco have these ordinances. But with Seattle, the city has almost no way to enforce the ordinance. And according to the study, of the businesses that do know about the ordinance, 40 percent say they won't comply.