Although Washington, DC passed a law requiring businesses to give their workers between three and seven paid sick days each year in 2008, it excluded tipped workers such as wait staff and bartenders as well as certain health care workers. But on Tuesday, city council members will propose a change that would expand the law to cover most tipped workers. Council member Marion Barry (D) and Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) will introduce it and have several co-sponsors.
Nearly 80 percent of DC’s restaurant workers report that they don’t get paid days off for illness or to care for a sick family member, and nearly two-thirds say they had to work when they were sick.
The law is working well for those who are covered, however. An audit of the law found that before the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act passed, half of businesses surveyed didn’t provide paid sick leave, but as of last year nearly 70 percent did.
And while opponents of the expansion of paid sick days argue that the law hurts businesses, the audit didn’t find any evidence to support those claims. The employers surveyed were not discouraged from basing their businesses in the city, nor were they encouraged to move to another location. That follows similar evidence from other cities. San Francisco, the first city to enact a paid sick days law, has seen little negative impact while the law enjoys strong business support and it spurred job growth. Connecticut’s has also come with little cost and huge potential upsides.
In all, five cities, including New York City; Portland, OR; and Seattle, WA and the state of Connecticut have passed such laws. There is also a push for such legislation in Tacoma, WA; Jersey City, NJ; a statewide effort in New Jersey; and in Massachusetts.