Time running out for sick-leave bill
Published: Wednesday, June 3, 2009
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
It has come down to the wire for a bill that would require many employers to provide paid sick leave for workers, as the state Senate has until the end of the day to consider the legislation.
The House of Representatives passed the bill, HB6187, with some amendments by a vote of 88-58 after nine hours of debate last week. The measure was forwarded to the Senate, but it may die there if the body does not take up the bill by midnight, the close of the session.
A special session for legislators to focus on crafting a budget is scheduled to begin at 12:01 a.m Thursday.
The paid sick days bill, in its amended form, would allow hourly employees to accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours they work, up to 32 hours in 2010, and 40 hours in 2011 and thereafter. The legislation would apply to companies with 50 or more employees, and companies that already provide equivalent paid leave, such as vacation or personal days, would be in compliance with the law.
The law would take effect Jan. 1 and make Connecticut the first state in the country to require employers to provide paid leave. The sick days could be used by employees to take care of their own or a child’s health, or to deal with issues arising from being the victim of sexual assault or domestic violence. Employees must be 18 or older and have worked at least 520 hours in the past year to qualify for the leave.
Connecticut Working Families, the coalition party that has been backing the sick leave bill, called the amended version that passed the House last week a “compromise” that would “create a basic labor standard for paid sick days.”
Joe Dinkin, communications director for Connecticut Working Families, said that with the economic crisis and concerns about swine flu, the need for the legislation “has never been clearer.”
“But in politics, nothing is as clear as it seems,” Dinkin said. “The Senate passed paid sick days last year. I hope they can muster the courage to do it again this year when it matters more than ever.”
Last year, the Senate approved a similar bill requiring paid sick leave, but the House did not take up the legislation.
The Connecticut Business and Industry Association is opposing the bill, saying it would put an undue burden on employers. The legislation’s passage in the House is “yet another example of the sharp disconnect between state lawmakers and the realities of today’s poor economy,” the group said in a statement on its Web site.
“The reality is that the only way many employers can accommodate this additional unbudgeted cost is by reducing other employee benefits, wages and, in some cases, the jobs themselves,” according to the statement. “What’s more, the bill will create a huge administrative burden on employers, especially smaller ones, in managing varying amounts of time off for their employees.”
One local business owner, Blanca Gonzalez, who owns B&M Homemaking and Companion Service in West Haven, traveled to Hartford this week to speak against the bill.
Officials from Connecticut Working Families and other business owners have said they believe the bill would save businesses money by avoiding the costs of “presenteeism,” a term for the phenomenon of sick people reporting to work.
If the Senate passes the legislation today, it would then go to Gov. M. Jodi Rell.