Arizona Paid-Leave Trickery

By John Alan Doran

During the election cycle, Arizona voters were treated to ads featuring adorable families hit hard by the current minimum wage.  We were asked to vote for Prop. 206 to raise the minimum wage incrementally until it reaches $12.00 an hour by the year 2020—a not-so-unreasonable request when fast-food workers are demanding a single-step increase in the minimum wage to $15.00.  Missing in the ads, in fact, missing in the debate on Prop. 206 completely, was the other part of the initiative—employers must provide paid sick leave to employees.  This mandate is a big deal for small and large employers alike.  Prop. 206 requires employers with fewer than 15 employees to provide at least one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, although an employee may not accrue or use more than 24 hours of paid sick time per year.  Prop. 206 requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide at least one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, and employees may accrue or use up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year.  Arizona employers will have to implement Prop. 206 paid leave by July 1, 2017.

Arizona voters resoundingly approved a very gradual minimum wage hike through Prop. 206, one that was only slightly different from the statutory hikes established almost a decade ago through Prop. 202.  But, when they voted for Prop. 206, did Arizonans understand they were creating a new financial burden on job-creators in the form of mandatory paid sick leave benefits?