In Focus

Nov 6, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Enforcement Agencies Gather to Share Strategies

By Zoe Ziliak Michel

On Tuesday, Elizabeth, NJ, passed the country’s 26th paid sick days (PSD) law, highlighting the momentum of the PSD movement while raising the question of how to enforce these laws effectively. Recognizing that strong enforcement is needed to ensure workers’ rights, CLASP has brought together agency officials and advocates from across the country—first through phone convenings and now in person in New York City.

At the Ford Foundation last week, representatives of 16 of the 22 government agencies tasked with enforcing PSD laws joined dozens of advocates and philanthropists at the first “Making Paid Sick Leave Work: Sharing Strategies” convening, co-hosted by CLASP and the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs. At the convening, participants discussed strategies for ensuring that workers in their jurisdictions receive the paid sick days guaranteed by law.

Participants grappled with difficult questions they all face in enforcing PSD laws: How can agencies with limited budgets use their resources effectively? Do temporary workers accrue paid sick days through their temp agency or the company where they’re temping? How can agencies identify legal ambiguities that need to be addressed through regulations? Convening workshops armed participants with best practices for addressing these issues.

Another key topic was collaboration between agencies and advocates. For example, Karina Bull from Seattle’s Office of Labor Standards and Nicole Vallestero Keenan of the Fair Work Center described their joint effort to educate workers about their rights under Seattle’s Paid Sick and Safe Time law. The Fair Work Center also advocates for individual workers who allege that their employers have violated the law. Other sessions focused on creative, low-cost outreach strategies, such as a San Francisco program that sends flyers home with schoolchildren so parents can learn about the law.

In a keynote speech, David Weil, Ph.D., administrator of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, emphasized the importance of optics in enforcing labor standards. He encouraged agencies to “look bigger” by making media aware of their big successes, which will encourage more business owners to comply with the law. Participants returned home inspired to leverage the bully pulpit along with enforcement tools to make their oversight more effective.

The convening opened a dialogue that will continue through, a new website CLASP is launching this month. The site is a one-stop shop for enforcement materials developed by agencies, advocates, and researchers across the country. Demonstrating that paid sick days laws can be effectively implemented is essential to passage of new state and local and laws, and ultimately the federal Healthy Families Act.

Oct 27, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Small Business Owners Support Federal Paid Family Medical Leave and Earned Sick Days

By Zoe Ziliak Michel

Small business owners support federal legislation to provide all workers access to paid sick days, paid family and medical leave, and an increased minimum wage, according to a new report from the Main Street Alliance (MSA).

MSA, a small business network giving owners a voice in public policy debates, surveyed over 1,000 small business owners in 9 states regarding state and federal business policies. Overall, though only 44 percent of owners offer paid sick days to their employees, 65 percent support a federal standard that would require employers to offer paid sick days, such as the Healthy Families Act (HFA). Similarly, only 13 percent of those surveyed provide their employees paid family leave, but 64 percent favor a national paid family leave policy like the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act. That support swells to 74 percent among business owners who are people of color or women. Lastly, 59 percent of survey respondents support increasing the minimum wage to between $12 and $15 an hour.

The report shows that small business owners, including those who do not currently provide paid sick days or family medical leave, recognize that public policy that promotes job quality helps not only working families, but also small businesses. For example, employers in jurisdictions with paid sick days laws report increased productivity and reduced turnover, which has saved them the costs of hiring new workers. And the Puget Sound Business Journal just reported that Seattle has seen a boom in new restaurant openings following the city’s minimum wage increase.

MSA’s findings reflect those of broader national surveys on public policy. Nationwide, 81 percent of likely 2016 voters, including 65 percent of Republicans, favor public policy to provide workers paid time off to care for their families, according to a January 2015 poll from Make it Work.

Voters and small business owners agree: it’s time for public policy that helps working families.

Sep 10, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

President Celebrates Labor Day by Extending Paid Sick Days to Government Contractors

By Zoe Ziliak Michel 

Workers were given another reason to celebrate Labor Day this year, as President Obama chose that day to sign an executive order requiring federal contractors to provide their employees with one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to seven paid sick days per year. The White House estimates that this executive order, which takes effect in 2017, will give about 300,000 additional workers access to paid sick days. Workers will have the right to use those sick days not only to convalesce when they fall ill themselves, but also to care for a sick relative or seek safety in cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

While extending paid sick days benefits to 300,000 new contractors is great news, this executive order underscores the need for all workers to be guaranteed paid sick days through  a national law – the Healthy Families Act (HFA). An estimated 43 million American workers lack access to paid time off to care for themselves or sick family members. The HFA would give all workers at businesses with at least 15 employees the right to earn up to seven days of paid sick time per year, while those at smaller businesses would earn up to seven days of unpaid (but still job-protected) sick time annually.

Our nation’s workers need paid sick days to protect the health of their own families and their communities. Parents without paid sick days are likely to send their kids to school sick, endangering the health of classmates and teachers. In contrast, those with paid leave are more likely to attend prenatal and well-child medical visits, get flu shots, and pursue other preventive care for themselves and their children. And employers who already have paid sick days policies state that offering paid sick days doesn’t hurt their bottom line; in fact, it reduces turnover, saving them money on hiring and training.

The president stressed the need for a federal paid sick days law in his Labor Day speech announcing the executive order. “I’m calling on Congress [to] take a cue from the rest of the world…Pass a national policy for paid sick days as well,” he urged, adding, “It’ll be good for business.”

On Labor Day, American workers celebrated the workplace rights that unions have fought for and won. Yet there are still more protections we need to secure. It’s time for job-protected paid sick days for all American workers. It’s time for the Healthy Families Act.

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