Los Angeles City Council members said Friday that they are stripping from landmark legislation to raise the minimum wage a controversial provision that could have forced businesses to give employees 12 paid days off each year.
Some business groups, outraged by the mandate, alleged that it was a furtive, last-minute addition to the wage hike plan approved by a City Council committee Wednesday. Mayor Eric Garcetti voiced concerns Thursday that the time-off requirement was not properly studied and could impose significant new costs on employers.
Acceding to such concerns, council members announced that they would peel off the paid-leave requirement and place it on a separate track for legislative review. It was a rare political retreat for Herb Wesson, the council's powerful president, who less than 24 hours earlier had been standing by the provision and had issued a pointed retort to the mayor.
"I don't believe the mayor intended to call into question the knowledge and expertise of the elected council members who collectively have over 100 years of legislative experience," Wesson said in a statement Thursday.
On Friday afternoon, Wesson and Councilman Curren Price — who also supports the time-off mandate — changed course, issuing another statement with Councilman Paul Krekorian, who had expressed qualms about a lack of public debate on the proposed time-off requirements.
The joint statement said the time-off proposal will undergo additional study by the city's chief legislative analyst and could return to the council in several weeks for consideration as an amendment to the minimum wage ordinance. Meanwhile, the proposed wage increase will advance to the full council for a vote next week.
"Sick leave is an important issue for all working families in Los Angeles and, like the minimum wage policy, it deserves thoughtful deliberation and thorough study," Krekorian said.
At issue is language in the plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020 that calls for paid time off "consistent with previous city wage policies." Garcetti and others said that could require businesses to grant 12 paid days off a year, matching a requirement for city contractors and L.A. hotels.
Stuart Waldman of the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn. said the time-off requirement would add about 5% annually to labor costs for businesses that already will be struggling with the wage increase the city is expected to enact.
Waldman said he was stunned to see the mandate for paid days off included in the plan approved by the council committee this week.
The decision to study the issue separately from the minimum wage would give businesses a chance to argue against it, he said.
"I think someone thought that they snuck one by," Waldman said. "The good news is that it gives us time to organize our members, to better know what impact that will have. This is a really detrimental policy."
It is still unclear whether a time-off mandate would be limited to sick leave or cover other forms of paid time off, such as vacation days.
A California law that takes effect this year already requires at least three paid sick days annually for workers.