California’s paid sick leave bill up for hearing next month

| April 8, 2014

A bill that will allow California workers a minimum of three paid sick days annually has already been approved by two Assembly committees, and will now undergo another hearing — as well as potential revisions and new provisions. The bill, AB 1522, would affect over 170,000 workers in inland southern California, and has already passed the Assembly’s labor and employment committee and the Committee on the Judiciary, according to The Press-Enterprise.

Introduced by assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, Democrat of San Diego, in January, the bill will now face the appropriations committee. According to assemblywoman Gonzalez, AB 1522 — unlike the prior two bills which were killed in that committee in 2008 and 2009 — “has a better chance of making it through the Legislature, largely because it has been scaled back from the previous bill’s parameters,” reports the Press-Enterprise.

paid sick leave

Children in Milwaukee protest for paid sick leave. From Voces de la Frontera.

Currently, the bill allows workers who have been employed for seven days to begin earning sick time — one hour for every 30 hours worked. Workers would be allowed to use this sick time after 90 days of employment. Employers would be permitted to cap total sick days to three.

Among the opposition is California’s biggest business group, the California Chamber of Commerce, whose spokesperson, Christine Haddon, calls the bill a “job killer,” according to the Press-Enterprise. The Chamber of Commerce claims that the bill would heighten businesses’ legal costs, “blur the distinction between hourly and salaried workers,” and — given a proviso that allows unused sick time to carry over into the following work year — create hardship for employers.

Yet assemblywoman Gonzalez says that costs have already been cut. “We pared back the bill, which is really limited in scope and is designed to reduce costs,” Gonzalez told the Press-Enterprise. “If you look at the actual facts, you can see that it’s very narrowly tailored.” If the bill is approved, it would impact the lives of as many as six million California workers and their families.

Going to work while ill can spread sickness, in addition to negatively affecting the worker’s health. The financial risks are dire, too: If a worker stays home without sick pay, reports the Press-Enterprise, she may “risk losing an entire month’s grocery budget within four days.”

The majority of professional and skilled trade workers work for companies which grant paid sick leave, but this bill mainly impacts retail, restaurant, child care and senior care workers. In California’s San Bernardino and Riverside counties, there are an approximate 174,200 residents working in restaurant or retail jobs, as of this February.

The bill is aimed at low-wage workers working for businesses of all sizes. Assemblywoman Gonzalez explained,“It’s to help low-wage workers but not necessarily small business employees,” including Wal-Mart, which does not provide paid sick leave. Comparable laws are on the books in DC, Connecticut, and certain cities, including New York City, Seattle, Portland and San Francisco. (Gonzalez said that, in San Francisco’s case, there hasn’t been proof that the paid sick law negatively impacts job growth.)

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