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November 17, 2009
Paid Sick Leave Mandate Backed by Department of Labor

Department of Labor officials told lawmakers recently that the Obama administration is a strong supporter of legislation that would require employers to provide paid sick leave to employees.

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In testifying before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee on Children and Families regarding workplace flexibility and paid leave in the context of the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, Labor Department cited a a Bureau of Labor Statistics report that found nearly 40 percent of private sector workers receive no paid sick leave.

Deputy Secretary of Labor Seth Harris argued that many sick workers to go to work and many working parents to send sick children to school because they have no paid sick leave. He said such a system poses a threat to public health, the nation's economic future and a social system that depends heavily on people caring for themselves and their family members.

The Department of Labor is backing legislation that would require employers to allow each employee to earn at least 1 hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. Under the legislation (the Healthy Families Act), employers would be allowed to cap the amount of paid sick leave an employee can accrue at 56 hours per year. Employers would also be able to have more generous sick leave policies.

"The Department of Labor is committed to making 'good jobs for everyone' a reality,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “A critical part of achieving that vision is workplace flexibilities that ensure workers and their families are healthy and safe. The Healthy Families Act is a strong step toward that end."

Three jurisdictions already require paid sick leave: the District of Columbia, San Francisco, and Milwaukee.


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