Congress Introduces Emergency Paid Sick Days Legislation

Dec 01, 2009

By Lexer Quamie

As concern over the H1N1 influenza continues to spread, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) recently introduced emergency legislation that would guarantee paid sick days for individuals infected by the H1N1 virus.

The legislation, the Pandemic Protection for Workers, Families, and Businesses Act (S. 2790/H.R. 4092), would require employers with 15 or more employees to provide no fewer than seven paid sick days for, an absence resulting from a medical condition such as symptoms of a contagious illness, "including the need to obtain medical diagnosis or care, or an absence to obtain preventive care for the employee for a contagious illness."   The bill also would protect workers who are absent to care for a sick child, and for absence due to workplace closure because of a contagious illness, or to care for a child whose school or childcare facility has been closed due to the spread of contagious illnesses, including H1N1.

Employers and companies that already provide seven or more paid sick days per year for uses consistent with the bill would be exempt from the bill's requirements.  Employees must have worked for their employer for 30 days before they are covered under the bill.  Although employees would be allowed to determine when to use paid sick days, the bill gives the Secretary of Labor the opportunity to issue regulations that would permit employers to require employees who request paid sick time to provide medical certifications.  The employer also would be required to provide part-time employees a pro rata number of days or hours determined under a formula.

The measure also would prohibit employers from firing, disciplining, or retaliating against workers who comply with the employer's directive to stay home or not come to work.  If passed, the Act would expire in two years.

CLASP supports this emergency measure, as it would provide paid sick days in the short term to the nearly 24 million low-wage workers who do not have paid sick days.  CLASP also supports the Healthy Families Act (S. 1152/H.R. 2460), legislation introduced by Rep. DeLauro and the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy that would require employers with 15 or more employees to provide up to seven paid sick days each year.  The bill would allow time off for an employee to care for a family member, and for absences related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.  Employees would be entitled to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to a total accrual of 56 hours-or seven days-of paid sick time. 

Although the Healthy Families Act was introduced in May 2009, the Pandemic Protection for Workers, Families, and Businesses Act may move more quickly as a result of mounting concerns regarding H1N1 influenza-related illnesses.  

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