Connecticut Lawmakers Consider Bill That Could Undermine Paid Sick Leave

Connecticut made history two years ago when it became the first state in the country to guarantee its workers paid sick days. The bill requires service workers to earn an hour of sick leave for every forty hours worked.

But now the state’s lawmakers are considering a bill that could undermine the initial legislation. S.B. 1007, which has passed the state Senate and is being considered in the House, would open loopholes for employers while whittling away at the benefits the original law created, according to analysis by the National Partnership for Women & Families and Family Values at Work.

Specifically, the bill would expand an exception for manufacturing facilities, as under current law, to include administrative offices as well. The current law only applies to businesses that employ at least 50 employees during any quarter of a year, but the new bill would change that monitoring period to a single week, potentially encouraging employers to slash staff for that time to avoid the threshold.

It would also change current law so that employees would no longer accrue an hour of leave for every 40 hours worked, but for every 40 hours scheduled. The advocacy groups warn that this could encourage employers to post last-minute schedules or simply ask workers to come in without schedules so that workers don’t accrue paid hours off. Additionally, the bill would give employers the power to make workers take an entire shift off, rather than the current law’s allowance for workers to take leave in one-hour increments. Some workers could be forced to take a full day’s worth of leave to go to a short doctor’s appointment.

The advocacy groups’ analysis includes polling that shows the state’s original paid sick days law was strongly supported by constituents. The bill was also a big part of what has become a national movement to enact paid sick days bills at the city and state level. New York was the latest city to pass legislation, joining five others.

But there has been a growing tide of opposition, as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has helped push bills that preempt cities’ ability to pass paid sick leave legislation. Such efforts have cropped up in Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Mississippi.

Big business has supported such bills under the pretense that paid sick leave will drive up costs. Yet a study of San Francisco’s legislation shows that a majority of businesses saw no impact on profitability or even saw a positive effect. Meanwhile, these policies have been shown to be good for business and job growth.