Saturday, November 14, 2009

Do your co-workers make you sick?

By Allison Fletcher Acosta, on November 12th, 2009
If you’re one of the 57 million workers in the U.S. without paid sick days, chances are the answer is “yes”. Thirty-nine percent of us have a difficult choice to make when we’re sick: go to work and risk infecting our co-workers (and risk making our illness worse), or stay home and put our finances and our jobs in jeopardy.

Sen. Chris Dodd and Rep. Rosa DeLauro are leading the charge to pass the Healthy Families Act first introduced by Sen. Edward Kennedy last spring. The Healthy Families Act would provide 7 paid sick days to all workers at companies with at least 15 employees, and would prevent employers from retaliating against workers who get sick. The bill has 113 sponsors in the House and 21 sponsors in the Senate, and has been endorsed by the Obama administration.
Passing this bill is an important step in fighting the spread of seasonal and H1N1 flu. Three quarters of workers without paid sick days work in food and service industries where they come into contact with both co-workers and the public.

The Healthy Families Act is an alternative to the Emergency Influenza Containment Act introduced by Rep. George Miller, which would guarantee five paid sick days to workers at businesses with at least 15 employees. Unfortunately, this bill only applies if management tells a worker to go home, and the bill would sunset after two years. Either bill is a step forward, but the Healthy Families Act is stronger.

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