Seven ways to exploit Denver's proposed paid sick leave ordinance -- and your employer

Categories: Business, Politics

initiative 300 stock art.jpg
It wasn't until I found a guide to the definition of "stalking" in Initiative 300, Denver's Paid Sick and Safe Time proposal (Section 18-9-11, page 7) that my interest in the actual wording of the proposal developed into a plan to just plain exploit it.

As the newest staffer at Westword, it's important for me to understand early on exactly how much I can wring from the company that so gently and recently took me in.

And though I might raise suspicions by taking paid leave this early, there would be nothing the people who edit this blog could do about it if this ordinance passes. Below is a guide to a few of the ways to translate the language into a perversion of the point.

Section 28-236:
1. Under initiative 300, all Denver employees would gain paid sick and safe time as long as they work at least forty hours a year (an amount approximately equal to the time they spend in the shower). With at least one hour of sick leave per 30 hours worked, the max here is 72 hours per year, and your boss isn't forced to let you carry time over to the next one. But pay attention: There's no limit to how much you can take at once -- so if you, like some of us, have been classically trained in fake coughing, your skills might buy you a five-day weekend in the mountains.

Section 28-236:
2. This is where it gets good. According to ordinance 300, I could bail on Westword for mental illness (stress, obsession with a band coming to town, general nostalgia) or the physical kind (that time I tripped walking down Broadway to the office). And while several other terms are clearly defined across three of the plan's sixteen pages, neither of those two are -- and they're arguably the most important. If the person next to me plays ICP and I get a little stressed or freaked, I'm out of here on mental leave.

The same thing goes for the need to take care of a family member, defined early in the document as basically anyone who's not a friend with benefits. Seriously: Aside from spouses and blood and adopted relatives, this includes guardians, domestic partners, the relatives of a spouse and "any other individual related by blood or affinity." I feel a strange affinity for the members of TV on the Radio (who, coincidentally, are playing two nights here soon). Does that count?

3. In what is a very serious section of the ordinance, paid sick leave is allowed for domestic abuse, sexual assault and stalking, which is essentially just adding on to the mental and physical illness claims. The language here guarantees leave for making your home secure and talking to lawyers, but it doesn't indicate any need for proof. We'll get to that later, but this is a larger problem: The ordinance is considerably lax about proof outside of my word as an employee.

4. I'm not required to find a replacement for the work I miss. I'm not going to, but under this ordinance I could essentially just leave in the middle of this blog post and no one could stop me. Under Initiative 300, Ferris Bueller would be paid for his day off.

5. My boss can't require me to provide "unreasonable documentation" of my illness, a spectacularly nebulous stipulation, and I wouldn't have to provide any documentation at all if I don't take more than three days off. Personally, I could think it's unreasonable to provide a doctor's note as documentation, in which case my boss could look at the ordinance for help and subsequently find the same vague language. Point: employee.

Section 28-238:
6. So, Westword would have to let me leave, without an actual excuse, for as many of the 72 hours I want. But the flu-coated cherry on top is that my boss couldn't say anything about it, either. It would be illegal for employers to count anything to do with paid sick leave as a need for "discipline, discharge, demotion, suspension or any other averse action," a list of items for which it's pretty tough to prove motivation. In fact, it's assumed in the wording here that any disciplinary action within ninety days of some sick leave is retaliation. Sure, I took an ax to the copy machine, but I know the real reason you're firing me is that sick weekend I took off at the same time as Coachella. If I were really smart about it (and really in job trouble), it looks like I could take one sick day every ninety days and keep my boss scared to fire me for a year (or even forever).

Section 28-239:
7. Because it would be Westword's job to keep records of all the paid sick leave I've taken, I can also manipulate the system. Any failure to maintain stringent records while, I don't know, putting out a publication every single week and a blog all the time, would be seen as its legal default -- and my gain. Come to think of it, the fact that I've documented all of my plans and published them might actually be the only thing capable of legally helping Westword from being future-exploited.

Read the full proposed initiative here.

More from our Politics archive: "Paid sick days initiative detractors & supporters share why they're on opposite side of issue."

My Voice Nation Help
9 comments
Robert Chase
Robert Chase

Are you the newest staffer at Westword, or are you working for the Colorado Restaurant/Hospital Associations?

Please don't be so quick to ape the facetious, superficial, and trivializing attitude often adopted in this blog -- voters need some real analysis of the issues, not some half-assed attempted parody of the propaganda coming out of opponents!.

Brian Melton
Brian Melton

I liked it. Thanks Whipple. I've now read something other than Cafe Society on the Westword blog. Lex and Joel...go be serious somewhere else. 

Joel
Joel

This seems to be some silly combination of a poor attempt at journalism and uninformed legal interpretation. 1. Actually, if you take more than two consecutive days, you must show a doctor's note. It says that very clearly.2. Taking mental illness lightly as you do, sounds like a 19th century perspective. Please join us in 2011.3. "Reasonableness" is a very common legal doctrine, not a "spectacularly nebulous stipulation." Look into it.4. I don't understand why salaried employees can be trusted with sick days, but wage workers cannot. Is there such rampant abuse of standard benefit packages for salaried workers that we should revisit that arrangement too? Or, are you simply distrustful of wage workers because they are some lower form of human? Your bias here shines through. This initiative is about correcting inequalities as much as it is about public health. This column has added nothing to the public debate about something Denver voters will be deciding on in under a month. It is a rather pathetic piece of writing. I know writers think they have a lower threshold of worthiness when contributing in a "blog" format, but this is beyond the pale

Jenn G
Jenn G

After reading the initative, I couldn't find where it said you had to show a a doctor's note. Here is what it actually says:An employer may not impose unreasonable barriers to use of paid sick and safe time or require unreasonable documentation of illness when an employee takes paid sick and safe time provided that no documentation may be required before three consecutive days of absence.

Joel
Joel

Exactly: if you have to take 3 days in a row, then you must provide documentation, which would be fulfilled by a doctor's note.

Robert Chase
Robert Chase

Do you mean that now having read the measure, you are prepared to consider its language on its own merits, as opposed to parrotting opponents' mischaracterizations of it?

Lex
Lex

"According to ordinance 300, I could bail on Westword for mental illness (stress, obsession with a band coming to town, general nostalgia)"What a fucking insult. You should be ashamed of yourself, Ms. Whipple. 

Jenn G
Jenn G

The point is the the way the thing is worded means you really could do that. I think people need to look into how vaguely worded this initative is. I think it would have more suppport if it was fashioned a little better.

Now Trending

Denver Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Loading...