Innovation Ohio Facebook Innovation Ohio Twitter Innovation Ohio Instagram

Terra Goodnight · March 11, 2020

Paid Sick Leave Needed To Protect Public Health

A briefing on paid sick days legislation to address public health emergencies and short-term health issues

Prepared by the Ohio Women’s Public Policy Network

Issue Overview

The United States is one of the few developed nations in the world without a guaranteed paid sick days law, which leaves behind 1 in 4 U.S. workers, or more than 32 million people, without access to any paid sick days. Low-wage and hourly workers, the majority of whom are women and people of color, are less likely to have access to paid sick days: 7 in 10 low-wage workers do not receive any paid sick days.

Without access to paid sick days, many working people are forced to make the impossible choice between staying home to recover when they are ill and continuing to work, risking transmitting the illness to others, for fear of losing their paycheck or their job.

This is amplified during a public health crisis, such as the coronavirus outbreak. The disparities in access to paid sick days can cause working people, particularly low-wage working people in the service industry, like those in restaurants, retail, childcare, and home healthcare, to feel compelled to show up for work even when they are showing symptoms. Many of these working people are in high contact jobs and are unable to work remotely, which could make it more difficult to contain the outbreak and could mean that low-wage working people are hit harder.

Access to paid sick days has been shown to reduce the spread of illness, and it can make a difference in the ability to contain the spread of the coronavirus. There is a cost to doing nothing: Without access to paid sick days, more working people will go to work sick because they are forced to choose between earning the paycheck they need and staying home to prevent spreading the virus further, which can make it difficult to contain the outbreak and lead to widespread and prolonged economic disruptions.

Policy Recommendation

It is crucial that our state takes swift and substantive action to provide access to paid sick days for public health emergencies, such as the Coronavirus crisis, as well the ability for working people to earn paid sick days for other short-term health issues they face year-round.

Ohio leaders should enact an Emergency Paid Sick Days measure that:

  • Requires all employers in the state of Ohio to allow for employees to accrue up to 7 paid sick days annually for regular use to address and recover from short-term illnesses, access preventive care, care for a sick family member or seek assistance related to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
  • Requires all employers in the state of Ohio to provide an additional 14 days of paid sick leave, available immediately at the beginning of a public health emergency, including the current Coronavirus outbreak.
  • Ensures paid sick days measures include coverage for the following circumstances:
    • an employee’s child’s school is closed due to a public health emergency
    • an employer is closed due to public health emergency, or
    • an employee or an employee’s family member is quarantined or isolated due to a public health emergency
  • Covers all employees within the state of Ohio, including hourly workers, part-time workers, small business employees regardless of employee size, and contract workers (also known as workers in the gig economy).
  • Guarantees job-protection and anti-retaliation protections for employees who take paid sick days.

National landscape

In response to the coronavirus crisis, federal lawmakers have introduced Emergency Paid Sick Days legislation, which would require employers to provide 14 paid sick days for a public health emergency and allow employees to accrue up to 7 paid sick days for regular use.

Additionally, state leaders across the country are stepping up to call for action on paid sick days amid the coronavirus outbreak, including Colorado, which will soon require employers to provide emergency paid sick days to service and hospitality workers who are exhibiting flu-like symptoms and being tested for coronavirus.

Private sector companies are also recognizing the need to enact emergency paid sick days policies for their workforce, particularly service industry companies that directly interact with people and are unable to work remotely. Walmart, McDonald’s, and Olive Garden have all announced paid sick leave policies related to the coronavirus outbreak.

The need for paid sick days extends beyond public health emergencies, like the Coronavirus outbreak, and lawmakers at the state and local level have recognized the importance of addressing short-term health issues workers face every day:

Since 2011, 13 states and the District of Columbia have passed paid sick days laws:

  • Arizona,
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington

At the local level, 20 Cities and 3 Counties have enacted paid sick days

  • San Francisco, Oakland, Emeryville, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, San Diego and Berkeley, Calif.
  • Seattle and Tacoma, Wash.
  • New York City and Westchester County, N.Y.
  • Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pa.
  • Montgomery County, Md.
  • Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth, Minn.
  • Chicago and Cook County, Ill.
  • Austin, San Antonio and Dallas, Texas

Media Coverage

Can You Lose Your Job If You Are Quarantined During The Coronavirus Outbreak? What You Need To Know, Forbes, February 26, 2020

Avoiding Coronavirus May Be a Luxury Some Workers Can’t Avoid, The New York Times, March 01, 2020

Analysis | Our lack of paid sick leave will make the coronavirus worse, The Washington Post, March 03, 2020

As coronavirus spreads, the people who prepare your food probably don’t have paid sick leave, The Washington Post, March 04, 2020

‘If We Don’t Work, We Don’t Get Paid.’ How the Coronavirus Is Exposing Inequality Among America’s Workers, TIME, March 04, 2020

America needs paid sick leave laws to stop coronavirus from spreading, The Hill, March 04, 2020

Ohio House Dems urge governor to create paid sick leave amid virus fears, The Columbus Dispatch, March 9, 2020

Walmart, Apple and Olive Garden are among major employers updating sick leave policies as coronavirus cases spread, The Washington Post, March 10, 2020

Ohio House Dems ask Gov. DeWine for paid sick leave program, NBC4, March 10, 2020

Tagged in these Policy Areas: Statehouse Update