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Big L.A. restaurants ordered to pay workers two weeks’ worth of sick leave amid shutdown

You can run from the dulce de leche cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory, but you can no longer hide
The City of Los Angeles passed an ordinance that will require restaurants and other businesses with more than 500 employees to pay two weeks of sick leave.
(Ken Kwok / Los Angeles Times)

Large Los Angeles restaurants will be required to pay their employees 80 hours of sick leave, part of a sweeping city effort to provide financial assistance to workers who have been affected by business closures related to the coronavirus outbreak.

City councilmembers voted on Friday evening to pass the ordinance. It applies to all employers within the city of Los Angeles that have more than 500 employees.

The 500-employee stipulation was added to the proposal just hours before it was put up for a vote, effectively sparing many owners of small restaurants from almost certain bankruptcy. That’s because with all restaurants closed to dine-in service, and many choosing to temporarily close during shelter-in-place restrictions, they’re pulling in little to no revenue.

The original version of the ordinance would have required all businesses with fewer than 500 employees to pay 80 hours of sick leave at an employee’s regular rate. It was also retroactive, and would have required paying those employed between Feb. 3 and March 4, too.

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The amendment to the proposal came as a huge relief to the city’s small restaurant owners, many of whom called in to argue against the original language.

“It was a long day and Ludo [Lefebvre] and I sat listening to the callers and the different councilmembers’ positions and we can understand both sides of the argument,” said Krissy Lefebvre, Lefebvre’s wife and business partner in their three Los Angeles restaurants, Trois Mec and two locations of Petit Trois. Two weeks ago, the couple had a total of about 90 employees; now they have just three on the payroll.

“But when we look at our side, we don’t have any income to pay this right now. It [would have] put us out of business.”

Salar Sheik, a restaurant consultant who works with In Sheep’s Clothing and Lupetti Pizzeria in downtown L.A., said although small businesses were exempt from the new ordinance, he felt bad for the larger restaurant groups that will be on the hook for big payouts at a time when they’re bringing in almost no money.

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“For restaurants that have 500-plus employees and probably have 10 to 12 locations? It’s still pretty harmful,” he said.


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