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Federal Bill Proposes Requiring Paid Sick Leave

On Tuesday, March 13, 2007, Congressional Democrats proposed a bill that would require all U.S. businesses with 15 or more employees to provide their employees seven (7) days of paid sick leave per year. The "Healthy Families Act", sponsored by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), would require all businesses with 15 or more workers to offer seven days of paid sick leave.

Currently, it is estimated that approximately half of American workers have no paid sick leave. Three in four low-wage workers receive no paid sick leave.

The bill's backers argue that businesses would benefit if the bill becomes law. Sick employees can spread sickness to others if they cannot stay home, according to Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for America's Health. "The proposed sick and family leave policies are also essential for containing the spread of infectious disease and limiting the risk of illness during public health emergencies", according to Levi.

Key features of this bill, should it become law, are as follows:

Eligible Employees: Employees who work at least 20 hours per work or 1,000 hours annually.

Covered Employers: All employers (public and private) with at least 15 employees.

Sick Leave Benefit: 7 days of paid sick leave a year for full-time employees and a pro-rata amount for part-time employees. Employees who request at least 3 consecutive days may be required to obtain doctor certification.

Employer Requirements: Employers would need to post notice of the availability of paid sick leave and how to file an enforcement action; they could not prevent, interfere with, discriminate against or deny the exercise of the employee's right to paid sick leave; and they would need to keep records regarding compliance.

Current Leave Policies: An employer that already provides comparable or better paid leave would not have to modify its benefit plans.

Enforcement: Secretary of Labor would have investigative authority.

Employers having strong feelings on the proposed sick leave bill may wish to contact their elected representatives. It is uncertain at this time whether President Bush would sign this bill into law.

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