Viewpoint: Businesses, beware ABQ’s toxic sick-leave ballot measure

Jun 1, 2017, 7:08am MDT
AQB Business First
Jason Espinoza
President and CEO,
New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry

Presumption of employer retaliation. Translation: Employers are guilty of revenge against their employees until proven innocent.

Due to this language alone, no Albuquerque employer can ignore or shrug off the paid-sick-leave ballot question, going before voters in October. In fact, by the end of this column, it’s my hope that the facts presented about this proposed ordinance will keep employers up at night until it’s defeated at the ballot box.As our coalition of more than two dozen trade associations and business groups speak to our respective members about the ballot initiative, we keep encountering the misconception that the ballot measure, entitled the “Albuquerque Healthy Workforce Ordinance,” is simply an up-or-down vote on whether Albuquerque employers must provide their employees with paid sick leave as part of their benefits.

“We already offer sick leave,” we hear. “I’m not worried about it because we provide paid time off,” is another response.

Providing paid sick leave or PTO prior to the October municipal election doesn’t let a business off the hook. In fact, it’s highly likely your current leave benefits will have to be wholly scrapped and replaced to comply with every detail of the seven-page ordinance.

But passage of the ordinance will not merely result in additional costs and more administrative duties for employers. That’s at best. Worst-case, many businesses will perish under the wave of lawsuits that are enabled by the ordinance.

There are times when a manager must, well, manage his or her employees, and doing so doesn’t always involve rewards. Sometimes, managing an employee to get the best performance or to ensure a safe workplace requires a reprimand. Sometimes, for the welfare of the organization, managing requires terminating an employee.

If Albuquerque votes “yes” on the ordinance, managing employees will get exceedingly more difficult. The legalese that voters will see on the October ballot reads, “There shall be a rebuttable presumption of a violation of this section whenever an employer takes any adverse action against a person who, within 90 days, exercised rights protected under this Ordinance or has in good faith alleged violations of this Ordinance, whether mistakenly or not.”

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