An estimated 676,000 Louisiana workers, or 45.1 percent of the workforce, cannot earn sick days, according to a new report from the National Partnership for Women & Families.

Nationally, close to 40 percent of the workforce can’t earn sick days.

The failure to establish a paid sick days standard is harming people in Louisiana and across the country, according to Debra L. Ness, president of the nonprofit group.

“It is absolutely unacceptable that so many hardworking people and their families risk grave financial hardship if they get the flu, strep throat or another common illness because they cannot earn basic paid sick days, even after years at their jobs,” Ness said. “Lawmakers at all levels need to look closely at what is at stake and take action.”

The report says the lack of paid sick days disproportionately affects African-American workers. The report also questions the wisdom of denying sick days to restaurant workers; nationally 90 percent of these workers cannot earn paid sick days.

business groups, including the National Federation of Independent Business and the National Restaurant Association, have vigorously opposed required sick leave. Opponents claim sick leave doesn’t reduce illness in the workplace, increases costs for consumers, and reduces hours and benefits for workers.