More Burdens for Business?: Proposed Ordinances Before City Council Would Add Substantial Hardships, Costs for Recovering/Reopening Businesses

Three newly proposed ordinances — all sponsored by Councilors Isaac Benton and Lan Sena — to be considered by the Albuquerque City Council later this month would substantially add to the regulatory and financial concerns of Albuquerque businesses by requiring new expenditures, adding to payroll costs, and resurrecting yet again an even more complicated and burdensome paid sick leave measure.

“It’s both surprising and concerning that the Council is even considering policies that would make it harder and more costly for businesses to operate in our city,” said Chamber President and CEO Terri Cole. “These new regulations and requirements would be particularly difficult because businesses are already trying to recover from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and adapting to new practices and requirements just to keep their doors open and employees and customers safe.”

The most concerning proposed ordinance is a new paid sick leave measure that not only incorporates paid sick leave requirements that have already been rejected by Albuquerque voters and the Council itself in recent years, but adds additional requirements on employers to offer sick leave under an even broader set of circumstances (read the full text here). Using the current public health emergency as a pretext to permanently install a policy that hasn’t been successfully approved at the ballot box or the Council, this new policy would require employers to provide 80 hours of leave per employee and expand the circumstances under which it could be used to include new situations like school closures.

Another proposed ordinance would mandate that essential workers — broadly defined as nearly any position in nearly two dozen sectors requiring in-person interaction with other individuals or items that may be handled by other individuals — receive additional pay for every shift worked while public health orders are in effect. Employers would be required to provide an additional $30 for every shift of less than four hours, $60 for a shift of 4-8 hours, and $75 for shifts of more than eight hours. Failure to implement these “Public Health Emergency Premium” payments — and make recordkeeping adjustments to reflect them on standard pay stubs — would result in criminal charges and civil liability.

Finally, a third proposal would require businesses — under threat of a $500 penalty per violation — to provide CDC-compliant face masks to any employee who regularly interacts with the public or other coworkers.

In combination, these proposed ordinances — scheduled to be heard at the Council’s June 29 meeting — would represent a substantial burden on businesses just as the process of re-opening the state’s economy is getting underway. They may also have an impact on loan forgiveness for initiatives like the federal Paycheck Protection Program, which requires that businesses maintain staffing levels established pre-pandemic.

“This is a brazen set of proposals that would be difficult for businesses to implement under optimal circumstances — and our current economic situation is far from optimal,” said Ms. Cole. “Albuquerque’s economy — even the state’s economy — depends on the ability of our businesses to survive and thrive in a post-pandemic environment, and our public policy should reflect that.”

Click the links below for the full language of each ordinance:

Paid Sick Leave

Public Health Emergency Premium Pay

Protective Equipment

You can find contact information for your City Council representative here.

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