San Francisco has guaranteed its workers paid sick days since 2006. Now a California lawmaker wants to bring the leave to all of the state’s workers.
State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D) introduced legislation that would allow all part-time and full-time workers who have worked for seven or more days in the state to accrue an hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, with a minimum of 24 hours a year. The leave could also be used to care for a sick family member or to take time off related to domestic violence or sexual assault. The bill also would require employers to allow workers to carry over a share of the leave into the following year, although they wouldn’t have to pay out accumulated time when workers left the company.
The state is already one of just three to offer workers paid time off for the arrival of a new child, but it still doesn’t guarantee that workers can access paid sick days. This isn’t the first time state lawmakers have tried to advance such a bill. A former assemblywoman put legislation forward several times, most recently in 2011, but it has yet to advance. But Gonzalez is optimistic that the climate has changed. “Our economic position is different in this state. We’ve rebounded, we’re coming back,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “I think people are much more aware of the inequalities between companies who are doing very well and yet providing little for their employees.” She pointed out that the state just passed a significant increase in its minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2016. “What else is necessary in order to make our working families complete?” she added.
If businesses are concerned about extra costs, the experience within their own state can put their fears to rest. After San Francisco’s ordinance was implemented, the city saw an increase in employment even while it fell in the five closest neighboring counties. The number of businesses, both large and small, also grew while falling in close by counties. Businesses themselves recognized that it came with little cost — a majority said understanding and implementing the new policy wasn’t difficult — and more than 70 percent said that it had either no impact or a positive impact on their profitability. In 2011, two-thirds of the city’s employers reported being supportive of the law, with a third saying they are “very supportive.”
There’s also reason to believe that similar results would happen on the state level. Only one state in the country guarantees that all workers can take paid sick leave: Connecticut, which passed its bill in 2011. Two years after the law took effect, a large majority of the state’s businesses said it hasn’t had any effect on their business operations and came with a small or nonexistent increase in costs. On the other hand, they reported a variety of benefits, such as productivity, motivation, and morale increases and a reduction in turnover. More than three-quarters said they support the law, with most saying they are very supportive.
California is one of a handful of states working on paid sick leave legislation, with similar efforts underway in Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon, and Vermont. Newark, NJ and Tacoma, WA are also pushing forward. Legislation that would cover all of the country’s workers has been introduced in Congress but has yet to go anywhere. Without a national law, 40 percent of private sector workers lack the ability to take paid time off for an illness, including 80 percent of low-wage workers.