PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – It’s bound to be a matter of fierce debate: should businesses in Allegheny County be required to pay their employees paid sick leave?
Allegheny County Council is set to vote early next week. One side says it will be another blow to small businesses already struggling during this pandemic. The other said says it’s the humane thing to do.READ MORE: Gov. Tom Wolf Orders U.S., Commonwealth Flags To Half-Staff For Former Vice President Walter Mondale
Nick Futules is an Allegheny County Councilman who also owns a restaurant. As both, he’s opposed to a bill requiring businesses based in the county to pay their employees for time off sick.
“Who are we as County Council to tell small business how to operate their business?” said Futules.
Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether businesses should have to pay employees for up to five sick days a year, but while busy preparing beer-battered fish for Friday’s fish fry at his Harmar House restaurant, Futules thinks the measures will deal already struggling small businesses a blow during the pandemic.
“It could cause layoffs. It could cause businesses to even leave the county,” he said.
But Council President Patrick Catena says he wrote the bill after being served by a restaurant waitress who was obviously sick. Catena asked her why she didn’t just go home.READ MORE: EU Regulator Finds Possible Link Between J&J Vaccine And Blood Clots, But Says Benefits Outweigh Risks
“And she said, ‘if I’m not here and I’m not working, I’m not getting paid.’ And obviously that made me start thinking about things,” said Catena.
Catena says providing sick leave is humane and actually increases worker productivity and safety.
“Why would you want your employees coming to work sick? That could affect your productivity, it could hurt your reputation and of course it could make other people sick,” he said.
Since being introduced early this week, the bill has been amended to exempt businesses with 25 employees or less, but Catena says that provision will be debated and that he and others favor the measure for all businesses — similar to legislation already in effect in the city of Pittsburgh, something that rankles Futules.
“I call us the copycat council cause if the city of Pittsburgh does it, members of our council think they have to do it,” Futules says.
“Obviously there’s going to be a cost in paying them and that will have to be absorbed by the business owners, but to guarantee you’re not infecting your customers and not infecting anyone else, you couldn’t put a price on that,” Catena said.MORE NEWS: COVID-19 In Pennsylvania: State Health Department Reports 4,577 New Coronavirus Cases, 77 More Deaths
There could be a vote on this Tuesday night but Futules contends the bill is being rushed. He says it’s too important and should be the subject of a public hearing.