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Paid sick leave bill advances in California

State restaurant group decries bill as too costly to industry

Proposed legislation that would require employers throughout California to provide workers with paid sick leave moved a step closer to passage on Tuesday.

Assembly Bill 400, also known as the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act, passed the Assembly judiciary committee by a 6-2 vote Tuesday and now moves on to the Assembly appropriations committee.

Paid sick leave legislation, however, has been proposed in California two other times since 2008, and in both cases lawmakers suspended the proposal at the appropriations stage.

The California Restaurant Association has opposed the measure, arguing that the costs associated with mandatory protected paid sick leave would have a “detrimental impact on the industry and could inhibit a restaurant’s ability to retain current employment levels in the face of the unprecedented economic challenges they continue to be confronted with,” said Daniel Conway, CRA legislative and public affairs director.

Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D- San Francisco/San Mateo counties, introduced the bill in February. Its modeled after a 2006 ordinance adopted in San Francisco — the first in the nation — that allows workers to earn and use paid sick says for illness, to care for a sick family member or to recover from domestic violence or sexual assault.

At the state level, the legislation would require employers to provide paid sick days for an employee who works for seven or more days in a calendar year. The sick leave would be accrued at a rate of at least one hour for every 30 hours worked after the first three months. Among businesses with 10 or fewer employees, workers could earn up to five days in a calendar year. Workers at larger companies could earn nine days per year.

A similar state bill is also moving through the statehouse in Connecticut, reportedly clearing that state’s judiciary committee on Tuesday and awaiting action in the Senate.

Other states are considering similar mandates, and legislation has also been proposed at the federal level.

Lawmakers in Wisconsin, however, took an opposing view and earlier this year banned sick leave requirements, overturning a local ordinance in Milwaukee that never went into effect because of legal challenges there.

Supporters of the proposed mandate in California point to research by Human Impact Partners and the San Francisco Department of Public Health that blamed a substantial share of foodborne illness outbreaks in the state on sick foodservice workers.

Between 2003 and 2007, 67 outbreaks of foodborne illness reported in California were traced back to an ill worker in a restaurant, school, day care center or hospital, according to the report.

“We are not robots. We all get sick, our family members and loved ones get sick,” Assemblywoman Ma said in a statement. “Study after study confirms that paid sick days are good for both business and workers. The evidence is growing that paid sick days is a commonsense policy that’s good for all Californians.”

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].


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