State Dems. Propose “Paid Sick Leave Act”

This Labor Day Weekend, the Genesee County Democratic Party would like to thank our Democrats in the Michigan Senate and House for introducing legislation that helps Michigan’s working people.  Senate Bill 0212 and House Bill 4307, also known as the “paid sick leave act,” proposes that each employer provide paid sick leave annually to each of their Michigan employees beginning January 1, 2018. Paid sick leave would accrue at the rate of one hour of leave for each 30 hoursworked up to 40 hours per calendar year for employees of a small business (defined as less than 10 employees) and up to 72 hours for all other employers. Under the Bill, the paid sick leavewould carry over from year to year, but employers may limit the time used to 40 hours a year for small businesses and 72 hours a year for all other employers. In contrast, the Family Medical Leave Act provides unpaid leave only to workers with a serious medical condition, only to those who have been on the job a year or longer, and only for employees who work for employers with more than 50 employees. 

The current reality for Michigan workers is harsh. Under federal and state laws, the vast majority of workers can be terminated at their employer’s discretion for missing work, even if they missed work because they are sick.  The United States is one of only three out of twenty-two developed countries that does not guarantee paid sick leave for its citizens. The only law thatmay protect them is the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows employees to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave to treat their own serious health condition or to help care for a loved one who suffers from a serious health condition.  However, that are several problems with FMLA.  

First, FMLA only provides unpaid leave, which leaves employees in a difficult choice – either take the leave that they need to get better and face financial ruin or continue working while they suffer through a debilitating condition.  Second, not everyone is covered–FMLA only applies to employers with more than fifty employees within a seventy-five-mile radius and only protects employees who have been on the job for a year or longer.  Third, FMLA only assists employees if they suffer from a serious health condition meaning a condition that is so bad that they are incapacitated for a period of time.  Other illnesses are not covered requiring employees to suffer through their maladies despite the impact that may have on their health and well-being, on the customers, or on the community at large.  SB 0212 and HB 4307 will fill these gaps left in FMLA and provide for a more humane work environment for millions of workers in Michigan.

Currently, Michigan workers are required to work while sick delaying needed medical treatment or spreading germs in the workplace and among the publiin order to avoid facing job repercussions from their employers. The status quo means that employees have to make a choice between sending a sick child to school or staying home to care for that child but not being able topay the utility bill. For 46% of Michigan’s private sector workers, taking time off work because of illness means no pay and being forced to compromise their financial security to get better. 1.5 million Michigan workers cannot take time off work to care for themselves or a loved one for fear of losing a paycheck or being fired.  The Bill would affect 67% of workers in the service industry and 78% of workers who work less than 35 hours a week. Working mothers areespecially at risk. A 2013 survey commissioned by Oxfam America found that one out of sevenlow-wage workers and one out of five low-wage mothers reported losing a job in the past four years because they were sick or needed to care for a family member.  

Other states have implemented paid sick leave legislation to great success.  Connecticut was the first state to enact paid sick leave in 2011. Despite initial concerns that it would have negative effects on businesses, the impact has been minimal. Employees have not abused the policy. They used fewer sick days than were available, and appeared to save up their sick time for when it was really needed. Only 10% of employers reported increased payroll costs of 3% or more. Despite initial opposition to the law, 18 months after it went into effect 77% of businesses were either very or somewhat supportive of it. According to a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, sick employees not working at full productivity are estimated to cost employers $160 billion a yeartwice the cost of absenteeism due to illness. 

This should not be a controversial issue and for Michigan voters—it isn’t. A poll conducted by Denno Research in 2015 showed that 86% of Michigan voters support paid sick time for workers. The reasons are clear. Paid sick leave is one way to reward work. It leads to higher productivity and lower employee turnover which is good for businesses and the economy. It promotes public health and family stability while reducing the need for public assistance.

Yet, Michigan currently has a law that prohibits localities from enacting their own paid leave laws.  This only underscores the need for our lawmakers to act for the benefit of Michigan workers. 

It is for these reasons and many others that the Genesee County Democratic Party believes that enacting a paid sick leave statute is the right, fair, and just thing to do and, therefore, endorses the passage of SB 0212 and HB 4307.

Unfortunately, as of today, this important legislation has been held in limbo by Republican legislators who refuse to move this forward for discussion in committee.  Republicans have show their true colors in freezing a bill that would help millions of Michiganders.  Call your Republican legislators and tell them how important paid sick time is to you and your family.

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