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If you get sick, are you guaranteed time off?  What about if your child is sick?  What about the person serving you your meal?  Are they even allowed to take time off?  

The United States is one of the only nations in the world where workers are not guaranteed sick days.  I'm not talking about maternity or long-term sick leave here, I'm talking about a few days of paid time off when sick or when taking care of a sick family member.  Most Americans have sick leave at their work (62%) but that leaves a depressing 38% without.

An astonishing 86% of Americans favor requiring employers to provide sick leave (including 81% of conservatives!).  This is not a controversial issue.  Why is this not at the top of the legislative agenda?  This just speaks to how bought-and-paid-for our congress is by business interests.  This doesn't mean nothing is being done, there is movement at the local, state, and national levels.  There's also a concerted conservative counter-movement at the state level to squash local reforms.

Let's look at some of the legislation around the country starting at the local level first:

San Francisco, CA In 2006, San Francisco became the first city in the US to mandate paid sick days for employees.  Workers can earn up to 5-9 days of paid sick leave, earning one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked.

Washington, DC In 2008, DC passed a law requiring 3-7 paid sick days per year (based on company size) after one year of employment.  DC law exempts tipped workers unfortunately but does cover paid "safe" days for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

Milwaukee, WI Also in 2008, Milwaukee passed a paid sick leave law.  Unfortunately, this was nullified at the state level by Scott Walker and the Republican congress passing a law banning municipalities from require sick pay (yay for local control GOP!).

The pace appears to be picking up at the local level: New York City, Portland, OR, and Philadelphia, PA (which was unfortunately overturned) have all recently passed paid sick leave laws.

What's going on at the state level?

Connecticut in 2011, Connecticut became the first state in the country to require paid sick leave.  Passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Daniel P. Malloy, this law requires companies of 50 or more employees to provide "service workers" with paid sick leave.  Workers earn one hour of sick leave per 40 worked, up to a total of 40.

There have been rumblings in several other states: Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, Washington, etc.

There hasn't been any serious activity on this at the Federal level since 2009 (pre-Tea Party takeover).  The Healthy Families Act would have mandated up to 7 days paid sick leave for almost all US workers, earned incrementally.  Unfortunately, the bill did not make it for a vote.  The Obama administration voiced their support.

We need to keep pushing for this at all levels of government.  We can't go national with this at the moment but we can accomplish things state-by-state and city-by-city.  This is not a controversial issue.  There is overwhelming public support.  This should be a no-brainer.

Originally posted to scott jones on Thu Jan 09, 2014 at 08:49 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The trend I am seeing is PTOs (9+ / 0-)

    PTOs lump together sick days, vacation, and personal time off. I like the idea that you don't have to tell the boss why you need the time, or get a note from your physician. You can take the day off to stay home with a sick child, or take a few hours to go to your doctor, or go on vacation or stay home sick. The decisions are up to you.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Thu Jan 09, 2014 at 08:54:31 PM PST

    •  One of the most efficient (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ways is simply unlimited a time off.

      For an intellectual workforce that is differently the way to go, its part of a pure meritocracy, being in an office does not matter, just the effect you have.

      I can see how it may be different for jobs which require time effort as well. IE manufacturing or something of the ilk. But for various other reasons paid sick time is unquestionable a good thing.

      I find it unfortunate that the GOV would have to legislate this given that, it really crazy obvious.  Not giving your continuous employees paid sick days is business management incompetence.

      To me this is akin to needing to legislate that individuals are not allowed to camp on a live train track

      •  While I agree this is most efficient (4+ / 0-)

        it'll probably never happen, and for a very sad reason.

        First of all, as a working scientist, I put in at least half again as many hours for my various research projects, proposals, and publications as I report on my time card (my standard day is 4:45 am - 3:45pm, and longer if required). I get paid sick, vacation, and personal days, but never use them all, or, have used them for projects when the budgets were running low. So, I could just be paid for 40 hours a week, flat time, regardless of the hours I work in any particular week, and the Laboratory where I am employed would be getting its money's worth, and then some.

        So, what's the problem? The management has to manage something, and if it's quantifiable, they'll watch it, have meetings about it, and obsess over it. Timekeeping is like taking attendance in school; it's easily measurable, so it's something managers "like" to manage. At our Lab, we're supposed to quantify our efforts in ten minute intervals (as if research were that reducible!) so they can be "charged" to a specific budget. That is, of course, until the management comes up with some new bureaucratic nonsense we're all supposed to perform. Then, that has to come out of either grants or projects or our own time.

        Eliminate the management (or require they do genuinely productive work), and a lot of this idiocy goes away.


      •  I don't support unlimited time off... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        nuclear winter solstice

        ...because in our work culture, there will end up being a strong pressure to take as little time off as possible.  More to the point, employees will end up having to justify every day that they take off, as opposed to now where you can at least point to a specific policy that says that you're required to take x number of PTO hours by such and such date.

        As it is, vacation in the US is stingy compared to most of the world, and this will just make it worse.  Unlimited time off might be better in theory, but the reality is going to absolutely suck.

        Political Compass: -6.75, -3.08

        by TexasTom on Fri Jan 10, 2014 at 01:03:55 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  In locations where they have (0+ / 0-)

          used unlimited time off. What you describe was a problem.

          However being informed, the managers of said organizations actualy came up with a solution to the American bias of over work.

          They paid employees EXTRA to go on vacation for at least 2 weeks at a time.

          this problem varied significantly by job role, I think engineers were like to take too little vacation.

    •  I don't think they're mutually exclusive (3+ / 0-)

      I've worked at places with paid sick days, vacation days, paid holidays, and PTOs.  Most people used their PTOs for hours spent on miscellaneous things like family issues or to run errands or to stay home when the weather was bad.  People used their sick days for when they were sick or when their children were sick.

      I guess I don't like the idea of people having to use their vacation days for illness.  With that in mind though, I think mandating PTO would be an improvement over what we have now which is: businesses are not required to pay workers for time not worked.

    •  In practice PTOs don't work well (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Throw The Bums Out

      People come to work sick so they can use their time for planned vacations so they make everybody else sick :o(

      Also alot of places that have PTOs make employees "use it or lose it" at the end of the year. So then you have a ton of people waiting until the end of the year to take time off because they saved their time during the year since they didn't know whether they would get sick. So everyone wants time off at the same time.

       Bosses tend to like PTOs better than traditional sick leave/personal/vacation time because it usually represents a net loss of time off for employees. Instead of accruing sick leave over time it keeps the number of sick days relatively low.

      Of course I guess it's better than nothing.  But I think traditional plans are better for employees.

  •  Sick days are good for both the employee (8+ / 0-)

    and the employer.

    Its too late in the AM for me to go find the studies, but The short of what ive read, and makes sense is... That when an employee is sick at work. They are bassicly unproductive, and they get their co-workers sick. Reducing productivity even further.

    By giving sick days and actualy having employees use them, employers increase employee productivity and employee retention rates.

    Its truly a win win situation.

    The American economy is filled with several glaring inefficiencies, that hurt both employer and employee, (general lack of vacation time is another, 40+ hour work weeks is another)

    •  I would be willing to bet that once (2+ / 0-)

      A number of congress critters get seriously sick because they ate at a restaurant where one or more of the employees came to work with a communicable disease and contaminate their food that things might change.  There was a line once on the show CSI, where a character says something like, "I don't eat at restaurants.  Ever.  Do you know how many DNA samples are on your food by the time you get it?"

      We've heard about whole schools needing every student to get series of shots because of hepatitis contaminated strawberries.  It is just a matter of time.

      The last time I drank out of a public water fountain, I wound up with the seriously unpleasant experience of being busy at both ends simultaneously.  Trust me, it sucks and leaves you feeling very helpless.  Even my cat knew something was wrong as it stood in the doorway and howled at the top of it's lungs.  That was about three years ago  and I changed my ways after the experience.

      "It's not surveillance, it's data collection to keep you safe"

      by blackhand on Fri Jan 10, 2014 at 07:52:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I never, ever eat samples at grocery stores…. (0+ / 0-)

        or the like.  I become sick at the thought of eating from the bowls of snack mix you see at bars.  They're petri dishes.

      •  One Christmas WalMart struck out with an ad (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        showing how very loyal and happy it's employees were: see Suzie on the ladder up there with the great Big Grin. She's very sick with cough due to cold or whatever but she took product X and now she's here to help you!

        That's a huge paraphrase but it was somethin' like that. After awhile they finally either realized what they were accidentally saying or came to the end of an ad campaign season.

        We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

        by nuclear winter solstice on Fri Jan 10, 2014 at 03:19:16 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Well, I agree with you... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VClib, JBL55, nuclear winter solstice
    An astonishing 86% of Americans favor requiring employers to provide sick leave (including 81% of conservatives!).  This is not a controversial issue.  Why is this not at the top of the legislative agenda?
    ...but to get paid sick leave, you must first have a job. Passing laws that facilitate job creation should be at the top of the legislative agenda.

    And in any event, it is in fact a "controversial issue". Not among US taxpayers, of course, who would all love to get paid sick days (and they should), but among employers, who, like with minimum wage, will argue that paid sick leave will raise their expenses and cost jobs.

    Again, I think Americans should have paid sick leave (I'm in the UK). So I'm not saying it's not the right thing to do...just that it's not quite as non-controverisal or easy as you make it out to be.

    Dammit Jim, I'm a lawyer, not a grammarian. So sue me.

    by Pi Li on Fri Jan 10, 2014 at 04:36:58 AM PST

    •  True but... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JerryNA, jbsoul

      We should be focused on job creation but we should also be focused on ensuring those jobs are decent and respect a basic set of rights for the worker--including paid sick days.  We can have multiple legislative goals.

      Also, I'm not saying that it will be a walk in the park to get these laws passed.  I know that business groups and libertarian ideologues will attempt to create controversy where there is none.  They'll say it's a "job killer" and that it will actually adversely affect low income workers.  They'll paint it as a controversial leftist experiment when it's nothing of the sort.  Requiring paid sick leave is nothing new, virtually every other advanced nation had this decades ago with few adverse affects on employment.  It's also supported by an overwhelming majority of the voters.  I wouldn't be surprised if most Americans already thought this was required by law.

  •  time off, never mind why = "not a team player" (3+ / 0-)

    That's the first challenge: the pervasive idea among executives and HR types that sick days, maternity leave, burnout prevention (for anyone who's not a C-level), time off for a competition or something, and general work/life balance all imply a lack of commitment to the company and its business, and that somebody who insists on them is probably just malingering and is a drain who should be fired.  Well, maybe not fired preemptively (legal issues and all that), but given the choice to stay or to go and don't bother coming back.

    Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

    by Visceral on Fri Jan 10, 2014 at 11:34:15 AM PST

  •  Massachusetts (3+ / 0-)

    You referred to "rumblings." Here's some more detail. There has been a bill stuck in the state legislature since 2006. It appears to be going nowhere -- in the legislature, that is. But a broad coalition of some 95 groups just collected over 130,000 signatures to place earned sick leave on the ballot next November as an initiative question, along with another initiative to raise the minimum wage to $10.50 by January 1, 2016.

    Steve Grossman, the current state treasurer and one of the leading Democratic candidates for Governor, is a strong supporter of the earned sick time idea, saying it would be his first priority in office. Grossman, a wealthy man who owns a family business, has himself kept workers on the payroll through several months of illness. He was the first witness to testify for the bill at legislative hearings years ago. Partly to keep pace with Grossman on the issue, the other leading Democratic candidates have come out in support as well.

    There's little downside. Since sick time is the kind of benefit that people want, employers who don't offer it tend to have higher turnover. And how many super-duper professional types are out sick or less productive because they caught something from a barista who didn't have the option of calling out? State Sen. Dan Wolf, who also owns a business and has championed the bill in the legislature, has said that his employees have not abused it; they take about half of the days they're offered.

    “Republicans...think American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people... And they admire of Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.” Harry S. Truman

    by fenway49 on Fri Jan 10, 2014 at 11:40:58 AM PST

    •  Sometimes my state gets things right (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fenway49, scott jones

      From CT

      The study finds that paid sick leave hasn't not had the oh-so-terrifying negative impacts on businesses as forecast before implementation.

    •  In liberal MA I'm amazed this isn't already law (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Sometimes I think state Democratic parties have been asleep at the wheel for decades.  I think there's been a consensus among business and union donors up until now not to pursue laws related to paid sick leave, paid vacation, etc.  Business interests like it because they're afraid sick pay will cut into profits.  Unions liked it because it was a recruiting tool: "join the union, get sick pay!".  In defense of unions, this might have worked--if enough people joined unions it would have become defacto labor law.  

      •  "Liberal" MA (0+ / 0-)

        is not that liberal. Scott Brown beat Elizabeth Warren in over 60% of towns here.

        My theory remains that we have a Democratic Party that's too "big-tent" precisely because the state GOP is so dysfunctional. Dems hold 80% of the House, 90% of the Senate, and all statewide offices, but it doesn't always add up to progress. A lot of those "Dems" would be Republicans in other states, and a lot of power in the legislature is held by leadership. The House speaker is not all that liberal. His office is where good bills go to die.

        Unions are a big part of our coalition to make it happen here this year.

        “Republicans...think American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people... And they admire of Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.” Harry S. Truman

        by fenway49 on Fri Jan 10, 2014 at 03:02:26 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  It would nice if it were required that food… (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    scott jones, fenway49

    service workers be given at least few paid sick days.    

    I have seen wait staff who are obviously sick and on the job.  Recently, at Stean n' Shake.   I see it often enough that I think it should be a public health issue.

    This week I had a checker at the grocery store who was in horrible condition.  I saw him and realized I needed go back for something I forgot.   It's a union shop, so I figured that the checker had paid sick leave.  Based on this, I considered finding a manager to advise him or her to send that checker home.  I didn't.

    •  Yes (0+ / 0-)

      it should be a public health issue! The flu is a statistically significant cause of death! If a person goes to work sick, his or her illness is a potential murder weapon.

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