by Dinita L. James
Gonzalez Law, LLC
On November 8, nearly 60% of Arizona voters cast ballots in favor of increasing the state’s minimum wage and providing mandatory paid sick leave. The measure ensures that employers will have to pay at least $10 per hour beginning January 1, 2017. Thereafter, the minimum wage will increase by 50 cents each year until it reaches $12 per hour in 2020.
Based on unofficial returns, Proposition 206, the Healthy Working Families Initiative, passed by healthy margins in 14 of Arizona’s 15 counties, with only Graham County in the southeast corner of the state voting against it.
Proposition 206 also mandates that Arizona employers grant paid time off that workers can use for a wide range of reasons, including their own or a family member’s physical or mental illness, preventive care, and services related to domestic or sexual violence.
The accrual rate for all Arizona employees will be one hour of leave for every 30 hours worked. The total amount of sick leave available will be capped, depending on the size of the employer. Employers with fewer than 15 employees must allow workers to earn 24 hours of leave per year, while employers with 15 or more employees must grant 40 hours of paid earned leave annually.
Proposition 206 limits which types of documentation employers can require to support leave entitlement and prohibits discrimination or retaliation against employees for exercising any rights created by the new law. Employers will be able to require advance notice of a foreseeable need to use paid sick leave, but only if they put the requirement in a written policy that is provided to employees. The paid sick leave provisions will not become effective until July 1, 2017, giving employers a small window to get their policies in order.
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), about 770,000 Arizonans make less than $10 an hour. That means about a quarter of Arizona’s workforce will get an immediate wage boost in 2017. Proponents of Proposition 206 estimate that about 934,000 Arizonans are in jobs for which employers provide no paid sick leave.
Minimum wage workers in Flagstaff will see their wages increase at an even faster rate than other Arizona employees. Voters in that city passed an initiative that will raise the hourly minimum wage to $15 in 2021. Based on unofficial returns, the Flagstaff measure, Proposition 414, passed by a narrower margin than the statewide initiative, 53% to 47%.
Another ballot measure of great interest to Arizona employers appears to have been defeated at the polls. Proposition 205, the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, would have legalized the recreational use of marijuana by adults. According to unofficial results, the “no” vote prevailed 52% to 48%.
Watch for a full report on the results of the ballot measures in Arizona in the December issue of Arizona Employment Law Letter.