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Paid Sick Days Bill Supporters: We'll Be Back

April 8, 2010

DENVER - An effort to gain support for a state law requiring employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees was short-lived at the state capital this week. The sponsor of the Paid Sick Days bill pulled the legislation Wednesday to work on it further, but vows to spend the summer beefing up the bill's provisions and to reintroduce it next session. The bill would have guaranteed all workers the ability to stay home sick without having to worry about losing pay or their job.

Erin Bennett, Colorado organizer for the 9 to 5 Association of Working Women, says nationwide, and in Colorado, roughly half of all employees don't get paid sick days.

"It means that they either are forced to go to work sick or lose a day's pay, and for a low-wage worker, that can have large consequences."

Some opponents argued now is not the right time economically to put additional obligations on struggling businesses. But, Bennett argues paid sick days are good for business.

"You don't have lower productivity because of sick workers being on the job, and you have reduced turnover from not having to lose your workers because of taking sick time."

Paid sick days can also allay public health concerns, Bennett says, particularly in businesses like restaurants.

"A server who comes to work sick and then serves food to a few hundred in one day could cause a potential outbreak from that one person coming to work sick."

Under the bill (HB 1397), workers would earn an hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, amounting to about 9 days per year for full-time employees. However, for small businesses with fewer than 10 employees, sick days would be capped at 5 days per year. Supporters, including Rep. Cheryl Peniston (D-Westminster), who sponsored the bill, admit more work needs to be done to make the legislation ready for law.

So far, just three cities, San Francisco, Washington D.C. and Milwaukee, have passed similar laws, but many states and cities are considering them.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - CO