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Lawmakers debate paid sick leave

January 1, 2010

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stressed that all people with flu-like symptoms should stay home and away from the workplace to reduce the spread of infection. During a Nov. 17 hearing before the House Education and Labor Committee, witnesses debated ways to implement employer-paid sick leave polices to ensure all workers are prepared for the H1N1 influenza outbreak. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at least 50 million American workers currently do not have access to paid sick leave. Many of them work in lower-wage industries that have direct contact with the public, such as food service, the hospitality industry, schools and health care facilities.

On Nov. 3, California Democrats Rep. George Miller and Rep. Lynn Woolsey, who chairs the Workforce Protections Subcommittee, introduced the Emergency Influenza Containment Act (H.R. 3991). The temporary legislation would guarantee up to five paid sick days for a worker sent home or directed to stay home by an employer for a contagious illness, such as the H1N1 flu virus. At press time, debate was underway on how to govern policies on paid sick leave and the potential effects on organizations already struggling in the current recession.

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