Paid Sick Days Laws Could Become Contagious

Jun 10, 2011

By Jodie Levin-Epstein

This post originally appeared June 10 on the Huffington Post.

It may be time to say, "As Connecticut goes, so goes the nation." Any day now, Connecticut's governor is expected to place his John Hancock on a bill that will make Connecticut the first state in the nation to enact a minimum standard for paid sick days. That sends "an important signal to the other 49 states," as state House Speaker Christopher Donovan noted when the bill passed.

State law is necessary because the United States has no federal paid sick days law for private sector employees. The United States is an outlier among the 15 most competitive nations when it comes to providing paid sick days. It's the only country in the bunch that doesn't have a law mandating sick time. The lack of federal law has sown a growing movement at the state and local level to pass paid sick days legislation. That's because 42 percent of the nation's private sector workforce -- 44 million workers -- do not get paid if they take a day off when the flu strikes or after Johnny breaks his arm sliding into first base. For the 44 million workers, taking time off for health can translate not only into lost wages but, too often, lost jobs.

With Connecticut leading the way, paid sick days laws may be contagious. There are active advocacy campaigns in about 20 cities and states, and bills are progressing in a number of states including California and Massachusetts.

The Connecticut law mandates that service-sector employers with more than 50 employees provide paid sick days. Employees get one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked. Between 200,000 to 400,000 service workers, including restaurant workers, cashiers, security guards and hotel workers will be covered starting in 2012.

Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy puts it plainly: paid sick days is "good public policy and specifically, good public health." Malloy, notably, spoke up for paid sick days as a gubernatorial candidate. His election demonstrates that paid sick days is not just good public policy -- it can be good politics too.

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