Washington, D.C., has become the second city to guarantee employees paid sick leave to care for themselves or a sick child. More than a dozen states are weighing legislation to mandate paid sick leave for employees (see box below).
The D.C. law covers full-time employees who have worked for their employers for at least a year, and for victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse who need time off to deal with those issues. It exempts most waiters and bartenders and some health care workers.
The District of Columbia follows the lead of San Francisco, which adopted a law in 2006 to require paid sick leave.
In D.C., those who work for organizations with 100 or more employees will earn seven days of paid sick leave a year. Employees at firms with 25 to 99 workers will get five days, while those at companies with 24 or fewer workers will earn three.
So far, two states, California and Washington, have established partial paid-leave insurance programs that allow eligible employees to earn payments for leave related to childbirth or caring for sick relatives.
On the national level, no paid sick-leave law exists. The United States is one of a few industrialized nations that doesn’t guarantee paid days for workers. U.S. businesses voluntarily provide sick days for about half of all workers.
A bill in Congress—the so-called Healthy Families Act—would require employers with 15 or more workers to provide at least seven paid sick days per year. Don’t expect passage in 2008.
But a Democrat in the White House could change that picture. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have voiced support for mandatory paid sick days.
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