Scientific America: Sick Days for Workers Keep Businesses Healthier

An excellent article from the Board of Editors of Scientific America on the overall benefits to businesses that result from liberal sick day policies:

Pushing employees with the flu or a stomach bug to drag themselves into the office means more absences, not fewer. Workers who are not able to take paid time off to see a doctor are more likely to take six or more sick days a year than are those who can take time off, according to a 2005 Commonwealth Fund report. Overall, workers who are ill while on the job account for anywhere between 18 to 60 percent of workforce productivity losses, according to a 2004 review of estimates in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. cdc data also show that employees without sick leave are more likely to get injured on the job and are less likely to get preventive health screening for cancer.
Experience suggests that paid sick leave does not hurt the bottom line. Sixteen U.S. cities and the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts and California have passed regulations that typically allow workers to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours on the job. A 2013 audit by the city of Washington, D.C., found no evidence that its five-year-old paid sick leave law had prompted businesses to leave the area or discouraged new companies from coming in. On the West coast, San Francisco continued to outperform nearby Bay Area cities in job growth after it implemented a paid sick leave law in 2007. There are expenses: employers have to bear a small increase in base pay for employees who use leave, for instance. But productivity and public health benefits outweigh these costs. (link)

Of special potential concern to those opposing liberal sick leave policies should the implications of the absence of such polices with respect to their restaurant dining experience:

Data published in 2013 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that one in five restaurant workers clocked in even when they were suffering from diarrhea and vomiting, the two main symptoms of norovirus. That formidable group of nausea-inducing viruses causes about half of all foodborne illnesses in the U.S. Bringing those harmful microbes into the workplace puts customers at risk. (link)

Opponents of liberal sick day policies should remember . . . you are what you eat.

Although,  New York City recently passed a progressive sick day law, New York State has yet to do so.


Second State To Guarantee Paid Sick Time - Just 48 to Go ...

On August 30, 2014, California became the second state to guarantee sick time.  While, likely a surprise to most people, although federal law provides some protections for at least unpaid medical leave, at least after employees working for certain employers have been on the job for a year (FMLA), there is no federal law broadly guaranteeing paid sick days -- not even just one. 

Some local jurisdictions like NYC have passed local laws.  But, absent local legislative action, there is an enormous gaping hole in protections for sick workers.

Right now -- you're thinking about the fact that you do have sick days at work -- that's great news. The bad news is that those sick days are likely merely your employer's disrcretionary policy and are not mandated under federal law -- which I'm sure you think they should be.

Here is an overview of the new California law from the Labor and Employment Law Blog:

"The new law is called the 'Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act.'  Beginning on July 1, 2015, both public and private employers (of any size) will be required to provide eligible employees with paid sick leave 'at the rate of not less than one hour per every 30 hours worked.'  Eligible employees are those employees who have worked 30 or more days within a year after their date of hire.  Under the new law, exempt employees are deemed to work a 40 hour workweek.  Employees are to be compensated at the same wage as the employee normally earns during regular work hours.  The rate of pay shall be the employee’s hourly wage.  If the employee in the 90 days of employment before taking accrued sick leave had different hourly pay rates, was paid by commission or piece rate, or was a nonexempt salaried employee, then the rate of pay shall be calculated by dividing the employee’s total wages (not including overtime premium pay) by the employee’s total hours worked in the full pay periods of the prior 90 days of employment.
There are a few exceptions in which employers are not required to offer the new paid sick leave benefit and they relate mainly to employees who are covered under a collective bargaining agreement, or who work in the construction industry, the home healthcare industry, or the airline industry." (link)

An in-depth overview of the new California law is available here.

Based on the experience of Connecticut, the only other state to pass a similar state-wide law, concerns raised about the California law are unlikely to be realized:

"California joins Connecticut, the first state to guarantee its residents have paid sick leave.  If that state’s experience is a guide, the California Chamber of Commerce, which called the state’s bill a 'job killer,' should have nothing to worry about.  A year and a half after Connecticut’s law took effect, most employers said the costs had been negligible or non-existent, abuse hadn’t cropped up, and many actually saw benefits.  More than three-quarters support the law, with nearly 40 percent saying they’re very supportive." (link)

Wait -- "more than three-quarters support the law?" Sounds like supporting the rights of workers to take a paid sick day might even attract votes to supportive legislators.

Just 48 states to go . . . including New York.