Last year, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Molloy signed into law a bill that would require service industry businesses with 50 or more employees to provide paid sick time. The law, which went into affect on January 1, 2012, states that for every 40 hours worked, an employee will receive one hour of paid sick time. This legislature makes Connecticut the first state in the country to mandate such a benefit.
It is estimated that between 200,000 and 300,000 workers will be affected by this paid sick leave law. Notably, it only applies to those who work in service industries, such as: retail, hospitality, food preparation and service, administrative, health care, janitorial/cleaning and salon services. Only employers of 50 or more workers will be required to provide the paid sick leave, and manufacturers are exempt. Employers that already offer 40 hours of paid leave each year (such as vacation days, sick days or personal days) will not have to offer this sick leave benefit, additionally, and temporary workers, independent contractors and day laborers are also not eligible.
Only minimum wage, overtime-eligible workers are covered under this sick leave act. Employers of exempt workers, therefore, will not have to provide this form of paid leave. Again, for every 40 hours worked, each service worker earns one hour of sick time, capping the paid time off at 5 days each year.
Paid sick leave is a general umbrella for time that workers can use to either care for themselves, if ill, or for an ill child or spouse. Paid sick time can also be used in handling legal, medical or practical issues related to family violence or sexual assault.
San Francisco passed a paid sick leave law in 2006, and since then similar ones have gone into affect in the District of Columbia, Milwaukee and Seattle. Connecticut’s passage of the bill makes it the first state in the union, however, to legislate for this type of coverage for workers, but several other states, such as California and Massachusetts have sick leave laws pending.
Governor Molloy urged for the passage of the law as it related to a matter of public health. Service workers are directly in contact with the public for the majority of their work duties. Oftentimes hourly workers, especially those who earn the minimum wage, cannot afford to lose one day of pay when they or a family member become ill. This issue for workers is called presenteeism, having to go to work out of fear of losing one’s job due to missing just one day due to illness or the emergency of a family member. Presenteeism forces these hourly workers to come to work anyway, potentially infecting others with whom they come in contact. In industries such as elderly care the threat of spreading illness is great, the very people being taken care of will become the most at-risk.
Many opponents of this legislature feel that requiring employers to offer this benefit will cause them to have to cut back on other benefits and incentives that they offer their workers. Some businesses also feel that it gives government far too much say into how they operate, and what specific benefits they must offer. It is a slippery slope for employers who will be at the will of government’s mandates, critics warn.
Author: Stacia Argoudelis
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