As your article “Bill giving workers paid sick time spurned by Senate committee” stated, at a recent Senate hearing, business lobbyists admitted that their organizations provide paid sick leave for employees — yet oppose a statewide policy for workers lacking paid leave. This is short-sighted.
Current employer policies are inadequate. Recent research revealed that almost half (45 percent) of Louisiana workers in private industry (676,281) lack paid sick leave. Lack of access is especially acute for low-wage workers, but even about 25 percent of those earning over $35,000 a year lack any paid sick days.
Workers and their families need paid sick leave in order to avoid financial stress and promote their own health and the health of coworkers and customers. Lessening the spread of illness is important for workplace productivity and for reducing health care costs. A CDC study of the 2009-10 H1N1 epidemic found that infected employees who reported to work were likely to have caused the infection of an additional 7 million people and 1,500 deaths. For all these reasons, in 2013, the American Public Health Association urged passage of laws “requiring all employers to allow employees to accrue paid sick leave and use it to care for themselves, a family member, or a designated person with a familial-type relationship.” I thank Sen. Karen Carter Peterson and Sen. Edwin Murray for their support of Senate Bill 81 providing for the accrual of paid sick days. I hope a majority of Louisiana legislators will do so in the near future.
Phyllis Raabe, Ph.D.
professor Mary Amelia Center, Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine