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Minneapolis City Council weighs new mandatory sick leave policy

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Updated: 5:53 p.m. | Posted: 3:02 p.m.

Minneapolis began considering a new mandatory sick leave proposal Thursday, after months of debate about expanding worker protections in the city.

The City Council officially introduced the proposed ordinance during a morning committee meeting. It would cover most employees who work at least 80 hours a year in the city, with exceptions for independent contractors and "casual workers" who are typically on call. 

Employers would be required to offer an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours an employee worked, up to 48 hours a year, although they could offer more. The mandate would require employers to allow their workers to accrue up 80 hours of sick time.

The leave could be used for mental or physical illness, care or treatment, diagnosis, and preventive care. It also allows leave for victims of domestic abuse, sex assault or stalking.

"It's just wonderful to see us get to this point, where we have such a balanced policy in front of us, and that we have the pieces in place to really make this successful," said Ward 12 council member Andrew Johnson. "And I'm very excited about it and I look forward to the public hearing."

The city has scheduled a public hearing on the ordinance on May 18, and a vote by the full council on May 27. 

Some city officials said they want a hearing and final vote on the matter in the next four weeks. 

"We are on the verge of enacting a policy that will improve public health for everyone and provide greater opportunity for low-income families, and listening and collaborating has gotten us there," said Mayor Betsy Hodges. 

A study last year found that more than 41 percent of Minneapolis residents, nearly 62,000 people, lacked paid sick leave. The measure is part of a series of worker protection efforts that Minneapolis officials have been weighing, including higher minimum wages and a sweeping scheduling mandate. The scheduling proposal was tabled last October. Opponents have said that the mandate could be open to manipulation and abuse. 

City officials say more than 300,000 people working in the city of Minneapolis. About 25 percent are Minneapolis residents, the remaining 75 percent come to work there from outside the city. 

A 15-member working group developed the proposal following 14 listening sessions and comments from more than 500 people.

Deputy city coordinator Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde told council members that a 15-member working group had tried to anticipate potential problems, and the city would monitor the implementation closely.

"We want to be very conscious and deliberate about creating a mechanism in which we look at the policy and find if we do have unintended consequences, find if there are things that we need to fix or to tweak," said Rivera-Vandermyde.

The target date for the new ordinance to take effect is July 1, 2017.