It’s Time to Pass Federal Paid Sick Days Legislation

A stomach bug is going around our offices, a pretty aggressive, stick with you for days, stomach bug. Luckily, only three people in the office got sick. That’s because at WOW, we earn paid sick days. We have a culture – and a CEO that emphasizes it – that if we’re sick, it’s better for everyone if we take time to recuperate and return once we’re feeling better and not contagious. It’s better for our organization’s new mom that she doesn’t bring the germs home to her new – and painfully adorable – son. It’s better for the dad on our team who has two – so twice the adorable – kids with more energy than most parents can handle healthy, let alone with the flu. It’s better for our staff who take care of elderly parents—where if they catch the flu, it could be a death sentence for the senior family members. It’s better for our team members who work out of state and works out of our DC office regularly – I can’t even imagine the drive home to NJ with a stomach bug.  And it is better for our colleagues—no one wants us to attend meetings while coughing!


Our staff’s ability to earn and utilize paid sick leave is what has kept the rest of our team healthy, productive, and engaged.


Right now, I’m one of the privileged workers in our country. Nearly 40% of the workforce doesn’t earn paid sick days. The Healthy Families Act would rectify this absurd injustice. Yesterday, Senator Murray and Representative DeLauro reintroduced the Healthy Families Act (HFA). This version of the bill builds on previous versions, with some important additions that can even further help working families achieve and maintain economic security – even when sick.


Like previous versions, the HFA will allow workers to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave days a year. The bill contains provisions to ensure workers’ jobs are protected when they take this leave. The sick days are earned paid leave for workers in organizations with more than 15 employees. For smaller companies, the bill proposes earning seven unpaid days of leave – with the job protection provisions also included.


Notably for WOW’s work, this latest version of the bill includes a provision that allows victims of domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault to use paid sick days for recovery or for seeking help around an instance of violence. According to WOW’s Economic Security for Survivors’ research, the average survivor of sexual assault misses 7 days of work a year.  Passage of the Healthy Families Act would ensure survivors won’t be fired or lose important wages for addressing issues that arise related to their sexual assault, domestic violence, or stalking.


In addition to HFA’s incredible potential to protect economic security for working families, the bill also ensures increased productivity due to reducing community contagion and reductions in health care costs.  And WOW’s original research with the Restaurant Opportunities Centers graphically demonstrated how important paid sick days are for the workers who serve us our food and drinks.  We found that 90 percent of the restaurant workers we surveyed had NO access to paid sick days. Perhaps, not surprisingly then,  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention traced 53% of norovirus outbreaks, and possibly up to 82%, to infected and contagious food workers. Further, according to Institute for Women’s Policy Research, more than half of projected $1.1 billion (with a B!) savings from a reduction in emergency room visits would come in the form of savings to taxpayer-funded health insurance programming. So, not only do the folks getting sick maintain higher levels of economic security – even those lucky folks who claim they never get sick can benefit from this proposed legislation.


And the great thing about this legislation – we already know it works and that it’s something policy makers on both sides of the aisle can support. Cities and states across the country (California, Massachusetts, Connecticut , Seattle, WA, Tacoma, WA, just last week– Philadelphia, PA, just to name a few) have passed similar legislation with both business and bipartisan support.


It’s time to pass this important legislation for workers, our communities, and our country.


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