A bill working its way through the state legislature would make California the first state to mandate paid sick leave for employees.
In Ohio, citizens will take the matter into their own hands with a vote on the Healthy Families Act, a public referendum on the November ballot that would require businesses with 25 or more employees to provide at least seven days of paid sick leave for employees.
California’s AB 2716 would affect more than 5.4 million workers who don’t receive sick leave from their job, the San Francisco Chronicle reported, and was inspired by an ordinance passed by the city’s board of supervisors that took effect in February 2007.
If passed, the bill would provide one day of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, the Sacramento Bee reported, and the state’s department of industrial relations would enforce it at a cost of about $600,000 per year.
Small businesses do get a small break — firms with fewer than 10 employees would only have to grant employees five day of paid sick leave per year, while businesses with more employees are required to provide as many as nine days.
Rajiv Bhatia, San Francisco’s occupational safety and environmental health director, said that paid sick days make public health sense, as workers without sick leave are less likely to stay home, and thus can spread diseases such as influenza.
However, labor policy is also a concern.
A report by the nonprofit group Human Impact Partners found that 72 percent of the highest-paid workers in the U.S. have paid sick leave, compared to only 21 percent of the lowest-paid quarter.
The bill’s author, Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco), told the East Bay Business Journal that business owners also stand to gain from the passage AB 2716.
“[The bill] not only benefits the nearly 6 million California workers who lack paid sick days but also employers through the cost savings of maintaining a healthy workplace,” she said.
Some Republicans in the state assembly decried the legislation as “job killing,” and a threat to businesses that might not be able to afford paying sick leave, according to the Modesto Bee.
“It’s a bad idea to mandate benefits,” Marti Fisher of the California Chamber of Commerce told the Chronicle. “This could force employers to cut back on hours, raises or even lay people off.”
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has yet to take a position on the bill, the Bee reported.
Opponents of the Ohio bill allege its appearance on the ballot is a ploy to get Democratic voters out to the polls.
“The state Democratic Party’s number one goal in this election is to take control of the Ohio Legislature,” David Zanotti, president of the business group Ohio Roundtable, told the Canton Repository. “They believe this mandatory sick-leave measure will help them reach their goal.”
The Cleveland-based group Policy Matters Ohio released in a report that the mandatory sick leave bill increase the benefits of 2.2 million workers, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.
San Francisco became the first city in the country to mandate paid sick leave for all employees in the city when it passed its ordinance, and Washington, D.C., also passed a similar ordinance in March.
“Assembly OKs paid sick leave for all”
Sacramento Bee, May 29, 2008
“San Francisco orders paid sick leave for all”
NPR, January 18, 2007
“Bill would require paid sick days for most”
San Francisco Chronicle, July 31, 2008
“California legislator defends paid sick-leave bill”
East Bay Business Journal, June 25, 2008
“Council Approves Sick Leave In District”
Washington Post, March 5, 2008
“Sick leave gives Strickland a headache”
Cincinnati Enquirer, June 17, 2008
“State sick-leave proposal draws criticism”
Canton Repository, July 30, 2008
“California bill requires paid sick leave”
Pacific Business News, February 27, 2008