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Will Orange County, Florida, voters approve sick-leave measure?

The debate over the right to paid sick leave in Orange County, Florida, is growing more controversial and confusing by the day.

As many in South Florida are aware, workers' rights advocates in Central Florida recently succeeded in getting a question about mandatory sick-leave benefits on the Nov. 6 ballot. The ballot initiative would ask voters if they want the county to require the majority of employers to offer workers paid sick time off. However, lobbyists and county commissioners have now put together an eleventh-hour proposal to add another question on the ballot--one that would essentially undermine the voters' decision on the sick-time issue.

The second question on the ballot was co-authored by a lobbyist, and it would ask voters if the regulation of employer-employee relations--such as sick time benefits--should be barred.

Various citizen groups believe that having the second question on the ballot will not only greatly confuse voters, but also quash a number of existing ordinances in the county, some of which deal with discrimination.

Workers' rights advocates have said they will sue if the countermeasure makes it onto the ballot.

If passed, and not simultaneously reversed by the anti-regulation vote, the sick-time initiative would require that businesses with more than 15 employees offer earned paid time off to workers who are either sick or caring for a sick family member. Although smaller businesses would not be asked to provide any paid sick time, they would not be allowed to retaliate against workers who take unpaid sick time off.

Among those that oppose the citizen-led sick-time initiative are the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association, the Greater Orlando Chamber of Commerce, Darden Restaurants and Disney.

What do you think? Should Orange County citizens be allowed to vote on the sick-time initiative?

Source: Orlando Sentinel, "Orange leaders back competing sick-leave proposal," David Damron, Aug. 29, 2012

  • Our Broward County law firm handles wage and hour concerns. For more information about our practice, please visit our South Florida Employment Law page.

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If approved by voters, the paid sick leave ordinance would require all employers in Orange County with 15 or more employees to provide each employee with one hour of paid job-protected sick leave for every 37 hours worked, up to a maximum of 56 hours of paid sick leave annually. Smaller employers in Orange County are not required to provide paid sick leave but may not retaliate against any employee who uses up to 56 hours of sick time per year. As a result, the ordinance essentially requires Orange County employers with fewer than 15 employees to provide up to 56 hours of unpaid sick leave annually to each employee.

Under the proposed ordinance, which applies to full and part-time employees, employees could use their paid sick leave for their own illness, diagnosis or preventative medical care, for the care of an ill family member, or to care for their child in the event that a child’s school or day care facility is closed due to a public health emergency. The definition of a family member under the ordinance is quite broad, and includes an employee’s spouse, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, sibling or other individual related by blood or affinity.

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