Congrats California Workers: Paid Sick Days are Coming Your Way

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A new concept is sweeping the United States, one that many of our peer countries have had for years: paid sick leave. Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown of California signed a law requiring most employers in the state to provide at least three paid sick days per year to their workers. While some American cities have already created similar laws, and the state of Connecticut has paid sick days in place for businesses that fall under certain requirements, California makes history as the first state to sign such an inclusive bill with regard to this benefit.

The idea is pretty simple — sickness is unpredictable. And sometimes people who have already used their vacation days, or simply can’t afford to take a day off, ever, get sick. When those people who can’t take a day off from work get sick, they not only most likely prolong their own illness, but also open up those they work with to sickness as well.

California’s law, although passed after Connecticut’s, is certainly more inclusive. Connecticut’s law, passed earlier this year, applies only to businesses with 50 employees or more. Manufacturers and certain types of tax-exempt organizations, regardless of the number of employees, aren’t required to follow the law. Day workers, non-hourly workers, and salaried employees also aren’t included — although that may be because salaried workers are often given sick days anyway. Connecticut’s law does, however, allow workers to accrue up to five sick days and while it was a unique and ground-breaking step, California’s law is significantly more far-reaching.

California’s law, on the other hand, applies to almost all employees, allowing them to acquire one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. Assembleywoman Lorena Gonzalez explained the motivation behind the more inclusive law, saying:

We become the first state in the nation to guarantee paid sick days for every single private-sector worker in the state — no matter what industry they work in, no matter if they are part-time or seasonal, and regardless of the size of their employer. This means more than 6.5 million more workers in this state will be able to take up to three days off when they or their child is sick without fearing the loss of income, hours or their job.

Paid sick time off is an especially notable issue to examine because of the incredibly fast way in which it became a conversation in the United States. Less than 10 years ago, there were really no laws requiring paid time off for workers; now two different states have passed statewide laws to that effect, and many other cities require paid time off as well now.

The main argument against paid sick days is that it will hurt the economy, but we have pretty convincing evidence to show that simply isn’t the case. The Connecticut economy has reported no dramatic negative changes due to the implementation of the paid sick day law. Some cities, such as Seattle, Washington, have also reported seeing no economic downturn after the law was passed; Seattle has actually seen economic growth.

And given that extending paid sick days to the vast majority of employees doesn’t lead to any economic issues, the full humanitarian benefits of the law really can be realized. As Governor Brown put it when he signed the bill into law:

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. Make no mistake, California is putting its workers first.


Anneliese Mahoney
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at



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