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Flu Season Amplifies Call for Paid Sick Leave

Wall Street Journal (02/23/13) Melanie Trottman

Amid the worst flu season in recent years, lawmakers in at least a half-dozen cities and states are intensifying a push for laws requiring paid time off when workers take sick days. Approximately 39% of private-sector workers are not entitled to paid time off when they fall ill, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and 11% of state and local government workers lack the benefit. Low-wage and part-time workers are among the least likely to get paid sick time.

Democratic lawmakers and their allies in Maryland, Washington, and Massachusetts, and in cities including New York, Philadelphia, and Portland, OR, are trying to advance measures that would make paid sick time a legal requirement for most firms. In Congress, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) plans to reintroduce a federal paid-sick-leave bill this spring. Such efforts started before this year, but a vicious flu season that sidelined many workers has given them new urgency. Opponents of codifying paid sick leave say such laws weigh on businesses and ultimately hurt workers.