Historic paid sick leave bill proposed

February 27, 2008 7:32:00 PM PST
New legislation in Sacramento would provide all workers in California with paid sick days.

Assembly member Fiona Ma introduced the bill. She says nearly 40-percent of the workforce doesn't have that benefit. If it passes it would be another first for California.

Kathleen Martinez is a single mom from Antioch. She works two part-time jobs but doesn't get paid when she calls in sick to care for herself or her daughter.

"It's like being stuck between a rock and a hard spot because it's either I stay home with my sick child or I go to work and worry all day about my child being home sick," said working mother Kathleen Martinez.

Assemblywoman Fiona Ma has introduced a bill to require employers to pay employees one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Up to five days a year for workers at small companies, nine days for everyone else.

"If one person get sick, they infect ten others, that's ten people out who can't do the job. So that's good public policy, good for business," said Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D) San Francisco.

Ma's bill is modeled after San Francisco's historic law which is marking its first anniversary. The city's Chamber of Commerce believes businesses resent being told what to do.

"What members are saying, what businesses are saying is enough is enough. First it was a mandate on health care, now a mandate on paid sick days," said Steve Falk from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

Cal Insurance and Associates already provided sick leave before the city stepped in. The boss is the president of the Small Business Association of California.

"It does have problems for people with two, three employees and having part-time workers and having too accrue and trying to keep track of that can be very difficult," said Scott Hauge from Small Business California.

But the city says it's heard a more positive story from businesses.

"The cost of the paid sick leave benefit hasn't been too much for them to manage," said Donna Levitt from the Office of Labor Standards.

Ma hopes to have her bill on the Governor's desk by September, but first things first -- a hearing in the assembly labor committee in the coming weeks.