Forty percent of the Nevada private sector workforce — nearly a half million people — have jobs that offer no paid sick days, according to a estimates released this month by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
In 2017, when legislators approved a paid sick leave bill, Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed it saying it would be a “substantial cost to businesses, particularly small businesses.”
On Thursday, several small business owners met at Legends Restaurant & Venue to speak in support of state legislation to provide earned paid sick days to private sector workers. The group met in coordination with Time to Care Nevada, a statewide coalition of organizations that have called for Nevada to establish paid sick leave policy.
Noting the prominence of the hospitality industry in the state’s economy, “the public health implications of a lack of paid sick days represent a significant hurdle to a stronger economy,” said Natalie Hernandez, speaking for Main Street Alliance, a national organization of over 30,000 small business owners who advocate for progressive policy.
Nevada business groups conventionally oppose paid sick leave. The Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Reno-Sparks-Northern Nevada Chamber, and the Retail Association of Nevada all spoke against the 2017 paid sick leave bill that legislators passed but that Sandoval vetoed.
“Small business owners across Nevada and the rest of the country feel like traditional business groups don’t represent their values or opinions and are speaking for big business,” said Hernandez, “Small business owners are working families too. They have much more in common with their employees than corporate executives.”
Ladislao Hernandez, owner of Casa Latina Records, said he viewed paid sick leave differently after his daughter suffered from a series of kidney infections to the point where she almost lost a kidney
“Before that whenever one of my employees got sick it really irked me and from my perspective it was like people wanted to get paid while not working, until it happened to me,” Hernandez said.
“During those nine years that my daughter was sick if I would have been an employee I don’t even want to think about what would have happened to my family.”
Last month, a paid sick leave bill, SB312, was introduced in the Legislature that would require employers with 25 or more workers in the state to provide paid sick leave at a rate of 1 hour earned for every 30 hours worked. Employers are allowed to cap paid sick leave accrual to 48 hours, or 6 days, per year. But the bill allows employers to limit workers’ use of their paid sick leave to 24 hours, or 3 days, per year.
A business with less than 25 employees would be exempt from providing paid sick leave to their employees.
As of Thursday, no legislative hearing had been scheduled on SB312. Under the legislative calendar, to proceed, bills must be passed out of committee no later than April 12.
Advocacy groups, including Make It Work Nevada, recommend a minimum of 56 hours, or 7 days, of sick days. IWPR estimates a typical Nevada family lose 3.5 days a year because of illness.
Unlike most developed nations, America lacks a national policy on sick leave, leaving it to the states, and increasingly to cities, to pass legislation. Currently, the District of Columbia and eleven states have laws mandating paid sick leave for at least some employers. Nevada is not one of them.
Sanje Sedero, the owner of the Las Vegas Integrative Medicine, has 5 employees and would not be affected by the bill, but supports the paid sick leave legislation. Sedero said he offers his employees 5 sick days and argues that it has not affected profits from his business in a significant way. He sees it as more of a retention issue.
Studies have shown that paid sick leave could lower employer costs due to the spread of influenza-like illness and loss of productivity. Other economic benefits include the reduction of non-fatal work injuries and job turnover.
“I think the bill is helpful to a certain degree,” said Sedero. “The 25 employee minimum is a good start, but I think small businesses are the ones who would benefit the most in the long run in a bill like this, because they will see the benefit of keeping good employees around.”
Legends Restaurant and Venue owner, Danny Steward who hosted Thursday’s event, said he believes the bill should cover businesses with at least eight employees or more. His 10 employees would not be covered under the bill if it were to pass as is.
“It’s something that’s needed,” Steward said. “Again, we’re small but it’s very important for us as much as it is for the bigger companies. As I said, I have about 10 employees and you better believe twice a week there’s at least two or three of them who get sick.”
Ibiandi Marquetti who owns a tax service business called Simple Tax, said he views paid sick leave as an investment. He believes the bill should cover all full-time employees regardless of business size.
“It’s the right thing to do and at the same time it’s a good investment for business owners, investing in your own employees, and investing in the people who are raising productivity while they feel taken care of,” said Marquetti in his native Spanish.
A 2012 study that estimated the economic cost of seasonal influenza on US counties found that Clark County was among the counties with the highest economic cost due to seasonal influenza-like illness, at $178 million in a year—$63 million in direct costs resulting from expenses from hospitalization and antiviral treatment, and another $115 million from indirect costs like loss of productivity due to missing work, school, and death.
Nevada business lobbyists have argued that the cost of paid sick leave would hurt the state’s small businesses.
“I don’t believe that,” Marquetti said, adding that cost of employee benefits has to be factored into any business from the start.
In the Mountain West region, which includes Nevada, an hour of work costs an employer, on average, $33.06, including mandated benefits. Only .29 cents or .9 percent, goes to sick pay, according to an estimate by The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Like I said, that week or those 10 days you give an employee is an investment,” Marquetti said. “An investment you are making like putting in better lighting in your business, like paying for better marketing.”
Due to an editing error, this story originally incorrectly described the April 12 legislation deadline.