In Focus: Paid Sick Days

Nov 29, 2016  |  PERMALINK »

Tacoma Serves as Model for Paid Sick Time Implementation

By Zoe Ziliak Michel

The people have spoken about the importance of paid sick time. With the passage of state-wide ballot initiatives in Arizona and Washington on November 8, the U.S. now has seven states and over 30 cities and counties with laws requiring employers to provide paid sick time. But passing these laws is only the first step in ensuring that workers can benefit from this vital labor protection. A paid sick time law will only be effective when the government office charged with implementing it takes responsibility for informing the public about the law and ensuring that employers comply. Today CLASP is releasing a new brief, “Learning from Predecessors but Breaking New Ground: Lessons from Tacoma’s Paid Sick and Safe Time Outreach and Enforcement.” This new piece describes the city of Tacoma, Washington’s strategies for ensuring the protection of workers’ right to paid sick time.

Tacoma uses multiple strategies to inform the city’s workers and employers of their rights and responsibilities. The city has set up information booths at job fairs so that job seekers will know what labor protections their new employer must provide. The agency has also posted information about the law’s “safe time” provision in clinics providing services for survivors of domestic violence. Further, Tacoma has partnered with employer organizations like the Washington Hospitality Association and unions such as the United Food and Commercial Workers to spread the word about the law’s provisions. These groups have helped the city explain to employers how best to comply with the law, while simultaneously informing workers how to use paid sick time or file a complaint against their employer if necessary.

Tacoma’s Office of Minimum Enforcement Standards has also made an impressive start in fulfilling its duty to enforce the city’s paid sick and safe time law. Though the law has been in effect for less than 10 months, the agency has already reached—over the phone, through posters, and at in-person presentations—thousands of the city’s residents, and its enforcement efforts have led to over $8,000 in paid sick time restored to workers.

Adding to CLASP’s series of briefs on paid sick time implementation, “Learning from Predecessors” provides paid sick time enforcement agencies and advocates with a model for how a small agency can strategically deploy resources to make a big impact for employees. Click here to read the brief.

Nov 15, 2016  |  PERMALINK »

Voters Increase Minimum Wage, Guarantee Paid Sick Time for Millions of Workers

By Zoe Ziliak Michel

While the public has been focused on the presidential race, last week’s election also included ballot initiatives affecting millions of working people. Across the country, in both red and blue states, Americans voted overwhelmingly for laws that will raise wages, increase access to paid sick time, and give more workers a chance at full-time employment. These crucial labor protections will significantly improve the quality of jobs, particularly for low-wage workers.

Four states passed ballot initiatives to increase the minimum wage. In Arizona, Colorado, and Maine, voters approved a gradual increase to $12 an hour, while Washington voters approved an increase to $13.50. (The current federal minimum wage is just $7.25 an hour.) These changes will help workers better afford basic necessities like rent and utilities as well as boost local economies through increased spending.

In Arizona and Washington, 2 million workers have also been given the right to earn paid sick time. Following last week’s victories, there are now seven states—as well as nearly three dozen cities and counties—with sick time laws on the books. These policies have numerous benefits for workers and employers, including increased access to preventive health care, reduced spread of communicable diseases, and cost savings for businesses.

In San Jose, California, voters passed a measure that will make it easier for part-time workers to obtain additional hours in order to make ends meet. By passing the Opportunity to Work initiative, San Jose joins four other cities (Seattle, WA; SeaTac, WA; San Francisco, CA; and Emeryville, CA) with recent laws that address involuntary part-time work or insufficient access to work hours. Under San Jose’s law, when employers find they have more hours of work available, they must offer those hours to existing, qualified part-time employees before hiring new staff.

These victories are part of a growing movement to improve job quality nationwide. By organizing together in cities and states across the country, workers, advocates, community groups, and progressive businesses are transforming U.S. labor standards. However, much remains to be done. Millions of workers still struggle to pay the bills despite working long hours and multiple jobs, are forced to work part-time despite wanting full-time work, and risk their employment to care for themselves or a sick loved one. So while we celebrate recent victories, we must continue to move forward until quality jobs are available to every worker—regardless of where they live.

Oct 27, 2016  |  PERMALINK »

Domestic Violence Awareness Month Reinforces Need for ‘Safe Time’ Rights

By Zoe Ziliak Michel

With October designated Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that over 10 million people are affected by this problem each year in the United States. The impact of domestic violence often extends into survivors’ workplaces: abusers may harass their targets at work or prevent them from reporting to their jobs. To compound the problem, survivors often face negative consequences from their employers; up to 60% of domestic violence survivors lose their jobs for reasons related to the abuse.

Employers can and should play a role in helping to ensure survivors’ security—including their economic security—isn’t jeopardized. Among other steps they may take, employers can provide paid safe time – time available for survivors (or family members supporting survivors) to  receive support such as legal assistance, crisis center services, or medical treatment related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. A worker might use safe time to file a restraining order against an abuser, to seek a crisis center’s assistance in escaping an abusive relationship, or to accompany a family member filing a police report against an abuser. Having job-protected paid safe time means the employee can take this time without worrying about losing income for the day or being fired. Recognizing the importance of safe time, 19 of the more than three dozen jurisdictions in the country requiring employers to provide paid sick time have specified in their statutes that workers can use accrued paid sick time as safe time. Even in jurisdictions without such laws, employers may choose to incorporate safe time policies into their workplace practices.

Safe time policies also benefit survivors by enabling them to keep their situation private, should they choose to do so. Unfortunately, survivors of domestic violence still face a stigma in our society, so some survivors may reasonably prefer not to disclose their situation to their employers. In most jurisdictions with paid sick and safe time laws, employers cannot require verification (such as a doctor’s note, court documents, etc.) of the need for sick or safe time until the employee has used three consecutive days of time. Thus, in the example above, an employee who only needed one afternoon to file the restraining order could simply report the need to use paid sick time. This employee would not need to produce verification or specify that the time was being used as safe time.

These safe time protections currently support survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking in 19 jurisdictions and at additional workplaces that have voluntarily adopted safe time policies. But survivors nationwide deserve the same protections. The federal Healthy Families Act, which would grant job-protected paid sick time to workers across the country, would also guarantee the right to use that sick time as safe time. This Domestic Violence Awareness Month, CLASP calls on Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act to support domestic violence survivors and all workers.

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