Pelosi pushes for federal paid sick leave law

On the heels of the 20th anniversary of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for new legislation that would require employers to provide up to seven days of paid sick leave a year for workers.

The Family and Medical Leave Act, passed in 1993, allowed for 12 weeks of unpaid leave for workers to take time off for maternity, or care for a sick family member. The law applies to workers at companies larger than 50 people and who work more than 1,250 hours a year, though labor activists say those requirements leave out half the work force.

Pelosi wants a federal law to guarantee paid time off.

“It’s not just about women, it’s about families,” the former House speaker said Monday while in Boston. “Many men take advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Act.”

Pelosi has been advocating this proposal as lawmakers debate a higher minimum wage. “She said 40 million Americans have no paid sick days, forcing them to work while they are ill or forfeit income,” the Portland Press Herald reports.

Currently, lawmakers in Massachusetts are pushing for a state level bill that would allow workers to earn one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked.

Connecticut passed similar legislation that allows for workers at companies larger than 50 employees to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, though the response from the business community has been less than favorable.

A survey by the Employment Policies Institute (EPI) found that many businesses had to scale back other employee benefits or reduce paid leave in order to comply with the law. Some businesses cut back employee hours while others reduced wages.

Thirty-eight of the 156 businesses who responded said they would hire fewer people as a consequence of the law.

“Other actions included offering fewer raises, scaling back on overtime, raising prices, and increasing the cost of other benefits like health insurance,” EPI found.

Pelosi aruges that about 40 million workers nationwide have to go to work sick to receive pay.

But EPI’s survey concluded that 90 percent of the businesses in Connecticut do not find sickness a problem in the workplace.

Some small business owners complain that Pelosi’s proposal reflects an adversarial relationship between labor and management.

“Everybody’s happy,” one business owner said of his workers.”Some of my employees have been here 20, 25 years. If things were so terrible, I wouldn’t have that kind of longevity.”

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