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Backers Hope Paid-Sick-Leave Laws Are Contagious

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo
DeLauro is a co-sponsor of legislation that would mandate paid sick leave. The Connecticut Democrat has introduced the bill in every Congress since 2004.

The study “really does confirm many of the expectations and predictions we’ve been making about this type of legislation,” Freedman said. “It will force employers to make choices that are not necessarily the ones advocates are expecting, like cutting back on hours and reducing overall hours.”

Harkin, DeLauro and other supporters counter by underscoring the public health hazard of failing to provide paid sick leave. They argue that their bill would help stop the spread of illness, especially by workers who have frequent contact with the public, such as low-wage workers in the food service, hospitality, nursing home and child care industries who often don’t have paid sick days.

“Showing up to work when you are sick costs employers a staggering $160 billion a year in lost productivity and further spreads sickness to others,” DeLauro said.

Although several studies back up that claim, critics of policies on paid sick leave reject it, arguing that little evidence exists that workers without paid sick leave come to work ill. The Employment Policies Institute study, for example, found that nearly 90 percent of all responding businesses indicated that sickness in the workplace was not a serious problem before the law took effect, and just three businesses described it as a “serious problem.”

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