Paid sick leave: Good for workers, good for business, good for customers

Stan Kimer[Editor’s note: Stan C. Kimer is a retired IBM executive and former President of the North Carolina Council of Churches. He now runs a firm which offers consulting services around diversity management and training, and talent/career development. This is the fourth installment in a series of posts he is authoring for The Progressive Pulse on engaging the faith and business communities on the issue of workers’ rights. You can read the previous installments by clicking here, here and here.]

Having started this series in late April on the importance of engaging both the business and the faith/religious communities in promoting workers’ rights, I am now alternating each post between the business community and faith community connection. This month I write about one of the key workers’ rights that businesses ought to support: paid sick leave.

First, a personal story. A few years ago, when I took a weekend trip out of town, I enjoyed a large breakfast in the hotel restaurant. My server was sniffling and sneezing, obviously not feeling very well. I engaged her in conversation and she shared that as a single mother, she could not take the time off despite her cold. She had a choice between working sick (which admittedly is not good for her customers who could catch her cold) or not having the cash to pay that month’s rent and buy food. What a sad situation for a hard working American to be placed in!

Here are some startling facts published by the North Carolina Justice Center:

  • Though almost everyone gets sick a few times per year, 1.2 million or almost 40% of North Carolina workers have no earned paid sick leave.
  • And those who need it most, low wage earners, disproportionately do not have paid sick leave. 60% of those earning below $20,000 per year do not have access to paid sick leave.
  • Children with parents who have paid sick leave to stay home with them recover quicker from their illnesses and return to school faster.

The financial case is also strong for businesses. A recent study from the National Partnership for Women and Families showed that companies that provide paid sick leave reported fewer occupational injuries, which more than offset the $255 cost per year per employee of providing the paid leave. And when employers provide paid sick leave, this earns higher employee engagement and commitment, resulting in less turnover. As a career development consultant, I often present that the cost of recruiting and “onboarding” a new employee can run from 75% – 125% of one year’s salary, so providing a key benefit to prevent employee departure is an excellent business investment.

So as with other workers benefits that I will write about in upcoming blogs, providing employees with earned paid sick leave is a win-win-win: good for the business, good for the employee and good for the customers.

And to conclude my story, despite her being under the weather, my breakfast server that morning in addition to bringing this key issue to my attention, did provide great service, and I tipped her about double the going rate since I knew it could make a difference in her life.


Mexican restaurant in Jacksonville in trouble for shorting workers’ pay

A chain of Mexican restaurants with a Jacksonville location is paying more than $50,000 in back wages to employees, after federal authorities discovered some workers weren’t receiving minimum wage.

Pancho Villa Mexican Restaurants, a small chain with one location near the Camp LeJeune Marine Corps Base, was not paying dishwashers and cooks at the federal minimum wage ($7.25), nor was it paying overtime, ac according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Labor.

The underpayments affected 30 workers from December 2010 to December 2013 at the company’s eight Virginia locations (in Fredericksburg, Culpeper, Dahlgren and Stafford) and its sole North Carolina location at 2121 N. Marine Blvd. in Jacksonville.

Pancho Villa’s owners agreed to pay $57,446 in back wages to 30 employees, as well as a $6,600 fine.

Federal labor officials are looking for former employees of the restaurant. Those affected can all the Wage and Hour Division at (804) 771-2995.


Tillis, worldwide fast food protests and the minimum wage debate

Today fast food workers from around the world—including folks throughout North Carolina – are rallying for a decent raise (most workers In NC make around the minimum wage of $7.25/hour) and the right to collectively bargain.Greenville NC

And now that the state legislature has reconvened, a handful of state representatives introduced House Joint Resolution 1068 calling for a raise to the minimum wage today as well.

The legislation has been shepherded to the Commerce and Job Development Committee, and we’ll see what happens next. Specifically, let’s see what Rep. Thom Tillis, the speaker of the house and Republican U.S.-Senate candidate, will do about it.

Tillis had previously called the minimum wage an “artificial threshold” and a bid to increase it a “dangerous idea.”

But last week on MSNBC he punted –basically to himself — by saying the rate should be set at the state level.

MSNBC’s Chuck Todd repeatedly asked him if he as state Speaker of the House would be in favor of raising the minimum wage in North Carolina, and Tillis couldn’t bring himself to answer that question.

Tillis probably knows that  73 percent of people believe it’s time to raise the wage. Let’s see what he’ll do about it.


Cary restaurant pays workers $ 145,000 in back wages

A Mexican restaurant in Cary agreed to pay its workers back wages it owed for skimping on overtime pay and tips.

Los Tres Magueyes paid 13 workers a total of $145,636 in money owed for unpaid overtime, tips taken from servers and hourly wages, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.

The restaurant chain has several locations in the Triangle, as well as one in Danville, Va. Nell Navarro, who identified herself as one of the family member owners of the restaurant, said she had no comment on the settlement when reached by phone Tuesday afternoon at the Cary location.

Waiters and waitresses at the Cary location were paid $3.15 an hour, but only for the first 40 hours they worked, according to the labor department investigation. When working overtime, wait staff only received tips (and no wages) and had to pay $200 a week into an illegal “tip pool” that both servers and non-tipped employees had to participate in, according to the labor department news release.  Labor investigators also found kitchen staff had fixed monthly salaries, regardless of the number of hours they worked each month.

“We found many low-wage employees working up to 50 hours a week without any overtime compensation and receiving pay below the federal minimum wage,” said Richard Blaylock, the director of the agency’s wage division office in Raleigh.

Federal wage law allows restaurant servers to be paid as little as $2.13 an hour, but only when the wait staff earn enough in tips to bring the total wages to the federal minimum wage, $7.25 an hour. Employers are required to make up the difference.