California to mandate paid sick leave under new law

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 10, 2014 1:40 PM

By Sharon Bernstein

SACRAMENTO Calif. (Reuters) - California businesses will have to provide paid sick leave to most employees under a bill signed on Wednesday by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, the latest move to aid low-income workers in the most populous U.S. state.

The bill would require employers to provide up to three days of annual paid sick leave to workers, who would accrue the time off at a rate of one hour per 30 hours worked. Last autumn, the Democratic governor signed a bill raising the minimum wage in the state to $10 an hour by 2016.

"Whether you're a dishwasher in San Diego or a store clerk in Oakland, this bill frees you of having to choose between your family's health and your job," Brown said at a signing ceremony in Los Angeles.

When the new law takes effect next July, California will become the second state in the country, after Connecticut, to require paid days off for employees who are ill, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Numerous business groups opposed the bill, saying it would be too costly to pay for the sick days.

The bill was welcomed by advocates for organized labor, some of whom had previously criticized it because it excluded in-home workers who help the disabled.

"By signing this important bill into law, the governor put an end to the cruel Hobson’s choice that more than 6.5 million workers face when deciding whether to go to work sick or lose wages that keep food on the table for their families," said California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski.

"This law protects workers and consumers, and is vital to public health."

According to the Washington-based Institute for Women's Policy Research, 44 percent of workers in California may not have access to paid sick days.

A small but growing number of local governments have passed paid sick-leave mandates, with San Francisco in 2006 becoming the first U.S. city to do so.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Will Dunham)