Duluth nears mandatory paid sick leave

The Duluth City Council has become ground zero in Minnesota for the debate over whether businesses should be required to provide paid sick leave.

Last night, the Council provided more specifics on a city policy it’s considering, lowering the business size threshold from 15 to 5 (a lower threshold than Minneapolis), the right to pursue civil cases if employees feel they’re not being treated fairly when requesting time off, and resisting efforts to exempt seasonal workers, according to the Duluth News Tribune.

Several in the business community, including Grandma’s, said they’ll operate with fewer employees under the policy, although one business owner said she’s offered paid sick leave for years and finds she has more employee loyalty because of it.

This is the issue that led to controversial remarks a few weeks ago by City CouncilmemberJay Fosle, who appeared to criticize a woman who said her inability to take time off for her health contributed to her miscarriage.

“I used the words that a person made a choice in life, and it offended this person. Ms. St. Germaine was offended by me saying it was a choice made and that life is about choices. I’m sincerely sorry that statement offended you, and I apologize for that,” he said last night. “Prior to being interrupted, I was trying to make a comparison to her statement that ended tragically, to the point that this council will have to make a choice which could be tragic to our local businesses in the community.”

His wife has miscarried twice, he said. His daughter was pregnant at 19, so he wasn’t out to judge anyone, he said.

The Council will further refine the proposed ordinance in two weeks.

“There hasn’t been a public process, there hasn’t been buy-in from advocates or the business community, and there hasn’t been conversation with councilors even though there has been ample opportunity for my colleagues to voice their concerns that their sharing in this form of an amendment which is drastically changing a large ordinance,” Councilor Noah Hobbs said, according to KBJR. Hobbs offered the original proposal.