Flu Season Brings Concern Over Sick Time Laws

Flu season—it comes every year, we can count on that. Right around the holidays, symptoms spread through the country like wildfire; children stay home from school, college students sniffle through finals, and some workers cash in sick leave. Millions of Americans without the option of sick leave, however, head into work, flu or not.

In the midst of a particularly aggressive flu season, a debate about paid sick leave is spreading almost as fast as the virus. Lawmakers in many cities are addressing widespread concerns that tens of millions of employees across the country without paid sick days are coming into work with contagious illnesses. Some are also concerned that workers without sick leave are more likely to use emergency care and that without the option of staying home to care for sick children, parents have little choice but to send sick kids to class. All factors contributing to dangerous flu epidemics.

New York Rallies

In New York City last week, after Governor Cuomo declared the recent flu outbreak a public health emergency, a group of workers, lawmakers and proponents of sick leave reform, gathered at City Hall to demand a three-year-old measure be finally passed, reports CBSNEWS.com.

Advocates for paid sick leave argue that it is a necessary social initiative that aligns with other labor rights like maternity leave or minimum wage regulations. Those against measures extending sick leave to more workers—generally small business owners and most commonly restaurant owners—say it’s too much to ask in a time of economic difficulties and especially for those small businesses already affected by super storm Sandy. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, along with other influential New York legislators, also oppose the measure.

A sick leave law in New York would stipulate that all workers would be given up to five paid sick days per year at companies with five or more employees.

Cities with Mandatory Paid Sick Time

According to reports, only three cities and one state in the country currently have laws requiring employers to provide paid sick leave: San Francisco, Seattle, D.C., and Connecticut. While some other states and cities have initiated some form of sick leave measure, no others have passed into law. But with many workers becoming more vocal and policymakers supporting the idea, we may see more sick leave laws in 2013.

Click these links to learn more about Employment Laws in the United States and how Wage and Hour Laws may affect you.

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