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Assemblywoman Gonzalez Proposes Guaranteed Sick Days For California Workers

California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) announced Tuesday she has introduced legislation to guarantee workers in California at least three days of paid sick leave annually.

Gonzalez said that providing employees with paid sick leave could reduce health care costs; The extra days would allow workers and their family members time to visit a physician, instead of having to rush to an emergency room in an effort to avoid missing work.

"Both workers and their employers lose out when employees have to choose between reporting for work while sick or losing pay because they don’t," Gonzalez said in a statement. "Every time this choice comes up for a sick employee, everyone loses money — whether it’s through unnecessary emergency room costs, the billions of dollars lost in productivity annually when sick employees try to work while under the weather, or lost wages that impact whether working families can put food on the table."

Under her proposed bill, workers in California would accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, and employers would have the option of capping an employee’s paid sick leave at 24 hours or three work days. Other states and cities — including Hawaii; Connecticut; New York City; Portland, Ore.; Washington, D.C.; and San Francisco — have adopted paid sick day laws already.

"As the dynamics of the modern family change, so does a mother’s ability to take care of sick children or hers own self when she falls ill at the same time she’s trying to hold down her job," Gonzalez said in a release. "Our economy has moved to a place where families cannot rely on a stay-at-home parent in times of illness. As a state, California must adapt to the reality facing today’s working families."

Gonzalez said paid sick leave will provide relief to several economic consequences that occur when employees fall sick:

  • Economic security: Workers without paid sick days have to go to work sick or stay home, lose pay and risk job loss or workplace discipline. Nearly one-quarter of adults in the United States (23 percent) report that they have lost a job or have been threatened with job loss for taking time off due to illness or to care for a sick child or relative.
  • Cost effective: Working people with paid sick days are more productive and less likely to leave their jobs, which saves businesses money by reducing turnover. And "presenteeism" — when employees work sick — is estimated to cost our national economy $160 billion in lost productivity each year.
  • Reduce community contagion: Workers without paid sick days are more likely to report going to work with a contagious illness like the flu or a viral infection — and risk infecting others.
  • Decrease health care costs: If all workers had paid sick days, it is estimated that 1.3 million emergency room visits could be prevented each year in the United States, saving $1.1 billion in health care costs annually. More than half of these savings — $517 million — would go to taxpayer-funded health insurance programs such as Medicare and the state Children’s Health Insurance Program.

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