The California legislature positioned the state to make history late Friday night, by passing a bill that would guarantee approximately 6.5 million additional California workers the right to earn paid sick leave. The legislation will give protections to workers often left without a choice but to work when ill, and will benefit more workers and families in California than any law of its kind to date. When the bill reaches Governor Jerry Brown’s desk, he will have the chance to sign the nation’s second statewide paid sick days law in history.
Sick leave advocates say it’s a first step in giving the state’s workers the paid sick days they need, but more protections are needed for workers.
The National Partnership for Women & Families applauds the bill, but stressed that this bill is just a first step to more worker protections, pointing to a need for more workers to be protected. “It unnecessarily excludes workers who provide in-home supportive services to elderly, ill people; the home-care workforce, which is overwhelmingly female and paid low wages, deserves the same basic protections as other workers. We will work hand-in-hand with our allies in California, to convince the state’s lawmakers to reverse this grievous exclusion and to give the state’s workers the right to earn more than three paid sick days.”
A strong body of evidence shows that when paid sick day laws are enacted, it benefits US workers, their families, businesses, public health and local economies. Existing paid sick days laws – in Connecticut, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, Seattle, Portland (Ore.), New York City, Jersey City, Newark – allowing workers to earn as many as nine days off in order to recover from illness have been very effective. In those jurisdictions, workers no longer have to report to work with communicable diseases, or risk their paychecks and jobs by staying home to recover or care for a sick child or parent.
The strength of California’s bill is that it will provide near-universal access by providing those protections to the vast majority of workers. It will help people get medical care they need, or care for relatives. Workers can earn up to three paid sick days that can be used for their own illnesses, to get medical care, mental health care, or seek assistance related to domestic violence. The law also allows for workers to use those days to care for sick family members, providing struggling moms and dads with some reprieve.