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Recent Pandemic Shows Need For Paid Sick Leave?

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 By Eric MackContact
May 14, 2009

Denver - The recent influenza pandemic scare is being cited as a good reason Colorado workers need guaranteed paid sick leave. A proposed federal law, the Healthy Families Act, will soon be introduced in Congress. It would give workers a minimum amount of paid time off for illness or to care for a family member.

State Sen. Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora) worked on similar legislation in Colorado and supports the federal legislation. She says, without an established floor of paid sick days, some employers would be tempted to ignore a public health threat.

"Some employers are pushing people to show up in order to keep their jobs, unnecessarily exposing other people, whether it's a common cold, swine flu, avian flu or other illness."

Eva Henry of Denver worked at a job without paid sick leave. She claims she was fired when she requested three days off to be with her daughter for a major surgery. She eventually lost her house, says Henry.

"I just wanted three days off - one to stay with her when she was in the hospital and be with her when she came home from the hospital. But, they just didn't want to give it to me."

It's important that any bill in Congress require paid sick days, adds Henry, because too many workers are in situations like she was in; being forced to choose between their family's health and a paycheck.

"I couldn't miss one day of work because I was providing for my kids, and one day meant whether we were going to go without food or if I was not going to make my rent."

The Act would allow workers to accrue an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to seven days a year, unless the employer opts for a higher limit. Opponents worry about the cost for small businesses, but supporters point out that the smallest businesses, under 15 employees, are exempt. Sen. Carroll says, in her experience running a small office, paid sick leave goes a long way toward increasing morale and productivity.

The Healthy Families Act could be introduced as soon as today.

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