Battle over paid sick time heating up at RI State House

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island House Labor Committee is scheduled to discuss a bill Thursday that would require employers to pay workers for sick time.

The proposed law has garnered strong support and opposition.

Among the supporters: Kaitlyn Roberts, owner of Easy Entertaining, a cafe and catering company in Providence. At the height of the busy summer season, Roberts will have 30 employees. All of them receive paid sick time.

“We extend it to full-, part-time and wait staff from the beginning,” Roberts explained. “I just feel it’s a human right and a good thing to do as a business owner.”

Roberts implemented the paid sick time policy a couple years ago. Now she’s supporting the Healthy and Safe Families and Workplace Act.

As it’s written, the bill says “all employees in Rhode Island shall accrue a minimum of one hour of paid sick and safe leave time for every thirty (30) hours worked up to a maximum of fifty-six (56) hours per year, unless the employer chooses to provide a higher annual limit.”

“I think it’s important to keep everybody healthy and happy in the work place,” Roberts said. “And that leads to growth.”

But the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce argues the proposed law is too broad and would be bad for business.

“This is not about paid sick leave,” said Chamber President Laurie White. “This is about another costly mandate on business that would make Rhode Island an outlier, that would make Rhode Island uncompetitive.”

Some business owners believe the paid sick time law would be difficult to implement and costly to track, according to White.

“We think employers need to not have a one-size-fits-all solution,” she said. “They need to have the flexibility to deal with their employees and their workforce in a way that they think is appropriate.”