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Paid Sick Days Hurt Working People
By: Jenna Beck | Our Voice Contributor
As I logged onto Twitter this afternoon, I saw the latest propaganda coming out of the centrist Democrat camp: #PaidSickDays. I suppose this is the new battle cry since the Democrats have been criticized for not having a platform other than anti-Russia and anti-Trump. The party has become so tone deaf that they are even considering “Democrats 2018: Have You Seen the Other Guys” as their new slogan.
As a Californian who has been working for corporations since 1998, I have more than a few thoughts about paid sick days (PSDs). Before there were any specific laws to require mandatory PSD, employers often offered paid time off (PTO) for varying amounts of time. The accruals per year would generally increase with tenure in the company. PTO is considered compensation. It is payable to the employee when employment is terminated. Some companies even allow employees to cash out PTO when it reaches the maximum amount accruable. Some companies would force employees to take time off using PTO to reduce the liability on their books. Most states still allow this sort of compensation plan, but not California.
On February 5, 2007, San Francisco implemented the first law requiring employers provide PSD. All companies that operated in San Francisco had to comply with this law. Companies, with a regional, national, or global footprint, that were headquartered outside of San Francisco, had to either universally adopt this law for all of their employees or set up a specific and separate payroll process for employees located in San Francisco. By July 1, 2015, a similar law was adopted throughout the state of California.
You may be asking, “Why is this a bad thing?” As I mentioned earlier, PTO is considered part of an employee’s compensation package, PSDs are not. You may only use PSDs when you are sick or by the generosity of your employer. PSD is “use it or lose it” and cannot be cashed out at any time, not even upon termination. Because of this change in the law, workers who don’t use the full two weeks of PSD lose money every single year. Workers who are pressured to work, even when sick, are unlikely to use PSDs unless absolutely necessary. What used to be a compensation package that included four weeks of PTO changed to two weeks of vacation time (compensation) and two weeks of PSD (not redeemable as compensation).
The law did little to protect workers, but instead gave employers an excuse to take away flexible PTO in exchange for a sick day program that reduces liability on the books and saves corporations thousands of dollars. Employers have also increased the use of contract labor to avoid paying for benefits and sick days. The PSD laws in place today don’t address this loophole.
Don’t be fooled by establishment Democrats who want PSD to be a national platform for a struggling party with no vision and no message. A truly progressive plan would be a mandatory minimum of four weeks PTO that is considered part of the employee’s compensation (prorated for length of assignment in contract employment). Anything less is benefiting employers, not workers!