The push to provide workers with earned paid sick time heats up this week, both in Portland and at the State House in Augusta.

After more than a year of study, a City Council subcommittee is poised to vote Tuesday on an ordinance that would require Portland businesses to provide earned paid sick time to all employees, including temporary and seasonal workers. It would be the first such ordinance in the state.

And on Wednesday, the Legislature will hold a public hearing on a bill submitted by Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, to require earned paid sick time statewide.

The measures are not identical. For example, Millett’s bill – “An Act to Support Healthy Workplaces and Healthy Families by Providing Earned Paid Sick Leave to Certain Employees” – would require businesses with more than five employees to offer paid sick time, while businesses with five or fewer employees would not. Portland’s ordinance does not have that exemption.

With two different proposals on parallel tracks, some of the city’s largest employers asked Portland officials on Monday to delay any votes on the local policy until action on the state bill is taken.

“From the beginning, we have felt that this is an issue to be dealt with at the state level,” MaineMed President Jeff Sanders and Mercy President Charlie Therrien said in a letter Tuesday to councilors, Mayor Ethan Strimling and City Manager Jon Jennings.


The heads of both Maine Medical Center and Northern Light Mercy Hospital expressed “significant concerns” about having to comply potentially with two different earned paid sick time rules. The hospitals together employ 10,800 people, including 2,789 Portland residents. Their respective parent companies – MaineHealth and Northern Light – employ 31,000 people statewide.

“With legislation that would implement a substantially different paid sick leave law than the ordinance your committee is reviewing already being considered in Augusta,” they continued, “we respectfully ask that your committee pause its work, and allow the Legislature an opportunity to consider the various paid sick leave proposals before voting on the ordinance before you.”

But Strimling, who brought forward an ordinance drafted by the Maine Women’s Lobby and the Southern Maine Workers Center, said he opposes any delay.

“We have heard this record before, unfortunately,” Strimling said, noting that the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce also has requested a delay. “So far, I have not found any of them advocating for a statewide policy. It’s disingenuous at best to be pushing us to wait for a statewide policy that one would then oppose.”

Strimling said the state has failed to act on paid sick time for 20 years. Even though prospects have improved with Democrats in control of the Maine House of Representatives, Senate and governorship, he said any statewide law would not take effect for two more years.

“Portland needs to lead on this,” he said.


The proposed ordinance would require Portland businesses to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick time a year – accruing one hour for every 30 hours worked – to all employees, including seasonal, part-time and temporary.

The City Council’s Health and Human Services and Public Safety Committee is expected to vote Tuesday on a recommendation to the full council.

The committee held a public hearing on the ordinance Jan. 8 that lasted three hours. The vast majority of the speakers supported the ordinance, saying that workers shouldn’t have to choose between a day’s pay and taking care of themselves or a family member.

Some business owners, however, expressed concern about increased costs and abuse of the new sick time mandate, as well as the ordinance’s impact on existing benefits plans, like paid time off, which lumps sick and vacation time together.

Portland’s proposal would extend paid sick time to 680 school employees and more than 500 city employees, according to a memo from city staff. Advocates say the proposal, which would include private businesses, could affect more than 19,000 workers in Portland.

City Finance Director Brendan O’Connell said in a memo to the committee that the ordinance could cost the city and schools $562,000 during its first year. After onetime expenses for education and outreach are considered, the ordinance is estimated to cost the city $492,000 a year.


Those estimates, O’Connell said, do not include potential revenue losses for some city recreation programs.

O’Connell said the city estimates that workers would accrue nearly $187,000 in additional sick time and the city may incur more than $51,000 in additional staffing costs to cover missed shifts.

Another $80,000 may be needed for education and outreach, whether it’s for targeted mailings to businesses or setting up a website about the ordinance. And the staff estimates that city contracts may increase by another $34,000 as a result of the ordinance.

Strimling questioned those estimates, however, saying they’re based on outdated information. He said the committee is no longer placing the burden of enforcement on the city, so those $210,000 costs for 2.5 legal positions should not be included.


Because to the impeding winter storm, the city of Portland has postponed Health and Human Services and Public Safety Committee meeting about the proposed earned paid sick time ordinance. The meeting will be rescheduled for some time in March, the city said.

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