GoLocalProv News Team
On Tuesday night, the RI General Assembly approved legislation championed by Representative Aaron Regunberg to “give earn paid sick time to more than 100,000 employees in the state as well as protecting all workers from retaliation for taking time off to care for themselves or a loved one.”
The Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act (2017-H 5413Baa, 2017-S 0290B) will now go to the governor for consideration
“After tremendous effort by countless workers, advocates and colleagues, today Rhode Island declared that every working person should be able to take care of themselves and their loved ones,” said Regunberg (D-Dist. 4). “This is a big deal. When parents send their kids to school sick, when people skip necessary care because they can’t afford a day off, when workers are let go because of medical emergencies, these are matters of basic human dignity. I am proud that with this legislation, families and working people across our state can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the awful choice between one’s health and one’s paycheck can become a thing of the past.”
The Senate version was sponsored by Senator Goodwin (D-Dist. 1) “This bill protects all Rhode Islanders in terms of public health and providing for their families. It means working people — especially those in lower-wage positions that lack benefits — will finally have the ability to take care of themselves or their families when they are sick, instead of coming to work, prolonging their illness and spreading it to coworkers and the public. For too many Rhode Islanders, staying home is just not an option because they can’t afford to go unpaid, and might even risk losing their jobs. Everyone gets sick from time to time, and staying home to rest and recover, or taking time to get medical help, means better health and, ultimately, better productivity for businesses too.”
Under the bill, starting in July 2018, workers will be able to take up to three earned sick days, phasing up to four days in 2019, and finally, five days starting on Jan. 1, 2020. Workers at companies with 17 or fewer employees would be allowed the same amount of sick time each year without adverse consequences for the employee, but it would not have to be paid.
A GoLocalProv editorial in February argued for passage of the bill not only for the worker, but also for the public’s benefit, “At GoLocal one of our golden rules is if you are sick, stay home. We appreciate that people are committed to working hard, but coming in sick does not help anyone — it just gets everyone else sick, their significant others sick, their children, and so on.
Yes, you do get paid — why wouldn’t you. Get better.
It is amazing that for many workers their employers want them to come into their place of work – sick.
The bill also allows workers to earn time to use as “safe time” for those escaping domestic violence.”
Implementation of the bill
Employers violating the statute would be subject to the same penalties applicable to minimum wage violations: fines ranging from $100 to $500 for every day they have been in violation. The measure would take effect July 1, 2018.
The bill would mean 90 percent of Rhode Island workers would now have access to paid sick days. In addition, another 44,000 workers would be able to take unpaid sick days.
Currently, over 40 percent of Rhode Island’s private sector workers do not have access to a single day of sick time. These workers may forego medical care without access to time off and risk financial instability when illness causes them to miss work. Workers in Rhode Island also lack protection from discipline or dismissal for short-term absences due to illness or domestic violence.
Seven states, the District of Columbia, and several cities across the country have already benefited from passing sick leave legislation. Businesses in these cities and states have reported higher productivity and greater employee engagement with little to no increase in costs. Workers with earned sick leave are more likely to seek preventative care and treat illness early, curbing the spread of disease. The bill would add Rhode Island to the growing list of states, including neighboring Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont in passing this pro-family legislation.
The bill was strongly supported by the Rhode Island Earned Sick Days Campaign, a coalition that includes AARP, Center for Justice, Economic Progress Institute, Fuerza Laboral, Jobs with Justice, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, Rhode Island Chapter of the National Organization for Women, Rhode Island Working Families, RI Coalition Against Domestic Violence, RI SEIU State Council, SEIU 32BJ-District 615,District 1199 SEIU New England, Teamsters Local 251, UNITE HERE-Local 26, United Nurses and Allied Professionals, Women’s Fund of RI, and the Capital Good Fund.