Denver Paid Sick Leave Initiative: City Council majority condemns 300

The list of names opposing the Denver Paid Sick Leave Ordinance is growing, and quickly. Yesterday, six members of the thirteen-person City Council added theirs to a list that already includes Mayor Michael Hancock and Governor John Hickenlooper. To cement their opposition to the toll the ordinance would take on the city, the group released a quick but staunch letter against the upcoming election's hottest topic.

Initiative 300, which would require Denver businesses to provide a minimum of nine days (72 hours) of paid sick leave for full-time employees, has created controversy based on its fine print. Although few of its opponents resent the added sick time, the focus is on what it costs employers in red tape and a loss of legal rights. Under the new ordinance, employees would not be required to provide "unreasonable documentation" or find a replacement for time missed as a result of what opponents see as vaguely defined reasons: mental illness, physical illness or either of the two applied to "any individual related by blood or affinity."

On the initiative's other side, supporters focus largely on the health benefits of removing sick employees from the company of those they interact with. With slogans such as "No flu on my fries," proponents of initiative 300 cite movies like Contagion in a campaign geared toward resisting the spread of illness that could result from introducing sick employees to the workplace.

When council members Mary Beth Susman, Albus Brooks, Charlie Brown, Chris Herndon, Jeanne Robb and Peggy Lehmann signed the letter (below), their line of sight fell directly on the proposal's implications for the city's infrastructure. (Although she did not sign the letter, councilwoman Jeanne Faatz has also come out against Initiative 300, bringing the total against the ordinance to a council majority.) The six who signed the letter cite recent research through the city attorney's office and its budget management office to indicate the ordinance's approval would add an extra $700,000 to the city's already stretched expenses each year. This, coupled with the "new level of bureaucracy" needed to oversee its enforcement, influenced the council members to come down against initiative 300 in an official capacity.

"The city has no existing system in place to implement this ordinance and a number of the city's existing paid sick leave policies are in conflict with those set forth in the Initiative 300," the council members wrote in the letter. It continues: "The Mayor's proposed budget already includes five furlough days for all employees just to balance our budget. Creating additional costs for the City at this time will come at the expense of other services."

In its conclusion, the letter urges the citizens of Denver to use its evidence as a reason to say no to Initiative 300 when it comes time for the November 1 election.

Read the letter in its entirety below.

Open letter from City Council members

More from our Politics archive: "Paid sick days initiative detractors & supporters share why they're on opposite side of issue."