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The Sound of Ideas

Paid Sick Leave: Job Killer or Life Saver?

Posted Tuesday, August 12, 2008

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More than two million Ohioans don't get paid sick days. For them, taking a sick day means giving up a day's wages or, in some cases, risking losing their jobs. Under the banner Ohioans for Healthy Families, unions and other labor advocates are calling for mandatory paid sick leave for all employers with more than 25 workers. That’s almost unheard of in the US but a common practice in more than 140 nations. U.S. employers see this a little differently. To many of them, it’s a cost they can't afford and it’s open to abuse. And importantly, the employers have Governor Strickland and Ohio’s Republican leadership on their side. Join us Tuesday morning to debate the state ballot issue that would require paid sick leave.

Tags

Economy, Regional Economy/Business - News, Government/Politics, Health, Other, Parenting/Child Care

Guests

Dale Butland, Ohioans for Healthy Families
Ty Pine, Ohioans to Protect Jobs and Fair Benefits

Additional Information

There was strong email response to the show; so strong that we couldn't get to all of them on the air and we hate to let this much food for thought go to waste. Here are emailers' thoughts on the Healthy Families Act. You can still weigh in by emailing us at this address: .

From Angeline:

This is in regards to this morning's Sound of Ideas. Great topic! I was only able to listen to the first 30 minutes of the show - but I do have some comments. I moved to Ohio three years ago from Tennessee, but over the years held several jobs in my career (I am a professional with a college degree). The job I have here in Ohio is the first that has not offered paid sick-leave. And not only that, but the company only offers 2 weeks of "paid time off" for a year - I had 3 weeks in Tennessee, in addition to 7 paid sick-leave days! - and it managed to stay in business!! It is appalling to say the least, that businesses have to be forced to provide this. The company I work for is making money hand over fist (over 100 million in revenue, with 100 employees) - and they don't pay particularly well either.
I make less here in Ohio. Were it not for my spouse who cannot leave, because he is in a tenured position - I would seriously consider moving back South. Cleveland complains about the "brain-drain" - this lack of benefits surely contributes. And a couple more comments - not only does Europe and many other nations offer paid sick-leave, they also typically offer far more vacation time. If an American company cannot afford to offer this in addition to a minimum of 2 weeks vacation and decent wages, then perhaps they should not be in business to begin with. I hope this passes and is made mandatory!

From Bill:
darn it , i missed the 1 hour show. i was too busy making and selling parts made in ohio. this socialist sick day proposal will cripple our economy even further. we fight every day against cheap import from communist countries and this will reduce our competitive stance even more. quick math, this would COST our company almost $45,000 in one year. how can we make that up? simple, we can't, we have to eat it. we need folks in government that actually understand simple math and common sense, you can't keep raising taxes and plowing more regs down our throat. at the rate these folks are taxing us to death, we will only service each other and not make a thing here anymore. on top of that , this will be so abused with fraud it won't even be funny.
please feel free to call me if you would like

Unsigned:
I only caught a few minutes of this morning's show, but enough to find Ty Pine's arguments ignorant and offensive. Were it not for "government intervention" in labor practices, there would be no child labor laws, no minimum wage, no worker safety regulations, etc. Show me the American whose ancestors were not positively impacted by government oversight of labor practices, and I'll show you ... a member of the Bush family?

To Dale Butland's argument about the "public health" benefits of sick leave, particularly for food service workers, Pine expressed horror at the thought that business owners might assume the cost for these sick days.

Why shouldn't they pay? Business owners a) gain the most (financially) from the labor of their employees and 2) are held liable (either actual legal liability or the cost in reputation) for any harm their sick employee causes their client.

If you make your cooks and waiters come to work when they're sick and they get your customers sick in turn, you'll be paying for it one way or another.

Unsigned:
I worked in a sick time and vacation time job for many years. We had people who manipulated their sick time so that by the time they quit , they had used every last hour of sick time. I was a divorced Mother raising children and I rarely used my sick time. When I quit my job I lost all my accumulated sick time . I then worked in a paid time off job and we all got the same amount of time off for whatever time we needed.
Unfortunately there are too many people out there who have the attitude that I was given those 7 days and I would be crazy not to use them. I think this is a very bad piece of legislation.

From Michael:

What size is the average company that the sponsors of this legislation have in mind? Seems to me that by mentioning very large companies (like Smuckers, etc.), you are focusing on big companies. Small businesses employing 50 to 100 people - which is where the growth in jobs is these days - will be disproportionately hit by this action. They often consume more cash than they generate to fund their growth and with today's credit crunch, it is very hard for these companies to be competitive as is let alone if they have to add more benefits by order of the state.

From Kathleen, South Euclid:
My comments are these:

It seems to me that those who oppose such practices as Paid Sick Leave, generally are those who are not and would not be affected by such a policy. (I'd like to know whether Ty HAS sick time built into HIS job - or whether it is even applicable to the type of work he does ? ) Many people who oppose this type of "Workers' Rights" policy or policies concerning universal health coverage have no true connection to the need. Those who oppose universal health coverage generally HAVE excellent coverage for themselves and their families. They have not "lost" their job due to personal or family tragedy or to the need to care for sick or disabled family members and they have plenty of vacation time or paid holiday time . . .
Those who have nothing other than an intellectual or mathematical understanding DO NOT actually understand the situation and should not be speaking about it. One has to have "been there" to actually "get it."
The whole discussion demonstrates a terribly inhumane attitude . . . and WE are supposedly a highly civilized nation.

From Chris:
I am an employment lawyer practicing in Brecksville. I would like to respond to the misconceptions relating to the purported "danger" of this proposal.

The vast majority of Ohio employees are "at will," meaning that their employers can fire them for ANY reason. If an employee is abusing sick days, the employer can discharge that person for that reason.

I don't know if Mr. Pine has ever been involved in collective bargaining, but it is an exercise in compromise. Simply because Maryann's union didn't negotiate paid sick days does not mean it wasn't important. It likely means that the union had to concede it to protect other rights.

It is also a misconception to say that employees and employers can deal with this on their own. There is an inherent imbalance in power in the employment relationship that places the employee in the lower position.

Lastly, 7 paid days out of 365 is a mere 2 percent. That's nothing. All this hew and cry from Mr. Pine and his group is simply a distraction and not grounded in common sense.

Thanks, and great show!!

From Charlie:
Currently, our company has a benefit providing for short term and long-term disability coverage in the event of a lengthy health related absence. A public school district where my wife works has a different arrangement, accumulated earned sick days similar to what the state of Ohio will be mandating on all employers if OHFA passes. Each year of employment with the schools entitles each employee to a certain number of sick days. Our disability benefit is not based on your length of service. In the event of a disability, an employee with one year of service is protected no differently than an employee with 20 years. Accumulated sick day plans do not work like that. If an employee with two years of service with the schools has a serious health problem that causes them to be absent 10 weeks (50 days), they only get paid for the first 30 days, based on earning 15 sick days for each year of service and assuming none were used up to that time. The Ohio Revised Code (sec. 3319.141) caps accumulated sick days for public school employees at 120 days unless the local school board extends it. Something very much like this example actually happened to a teacher and I’m not exaggerating when I say they had financial problems because of it. The medical leave was far longer than the number of sick days that person had accumulated. Other employees of the school district were asked to donate some of their sick days to the ill person in an attempt to help them out. That’s a nice gesture, but being seriously ill and depending on the generosity of co-workers to avoid falling behind in your financial obligations is not a very secure arrangement.
There is a reason I shared the above story with everybody. The cost burden aside, if this initiative becomes law it will create an administrative nightmare. A big issue is when the clock would start when somebody has a health problem qualifying for short-term or long-term disability based on our existing benefit. There is no way to fit the two plans together. If the OHFA becomes law, and I am assuming it will, our existing disability benefit will be replaced by whatever is mandated by the State of Ohio. We cannot afford to provide redundant benefits to pay people twice for time missed as a result of an illness. Our employees will be covered by either our existing disability plan or they will be covered by the OHFA plan mandated by the state, not a combination of the two. This decision is being forced on us by the state.

Hypothetical scenario; four years from now, two people are taken ill at the same time and their doctors’ have determined each will need 4 months (90 work days) to recover well enough to return to work. Patient #1 had perfect attendance, so 28 of the 90 days are covered by the OHFA mandated paid time off. Patient #2 has only been employed for two years, and has used 7 days of the OHFA mandated paid sick time prior to the onset of the serous health problem. Assuming our existing disability benefit is in place, when will each person be eligible to start receiving benefits? It is a violation of Federal Labor Law to cover each person differently, and having a variable qualification period based on accumulated sick time would be such a violation. This is just one example of the sort of difficulties that have to be worked around.

From Todd:
We have people now who abuse the sick policy, this only makes it worse.
Would supporters of this proposal still support it if they knew that employers would replace the 7 days of sick time with current holidays?
Memorial day, thanksgiving, Christmas, labor day.

From Martin
:
It is no surprise that business interests oppose paid sick days for employees. Business interests have resisted EVERY attempt by government over the years to hold them to social accountability. Business resisted attempts to control pollution, persecuted union organizers, fought against employee health benefits, and lobbied against laws prevent discrimination.
Now we're hearing the same scare tactics again. Face it - IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO.

From Jim:
I can not tell you how bad I want out of the state of ohio, over the past 2 years they have increased my servers’ wages by over 68%, costing the restaurant over $56,000 dollars, which we do not have. Now 7 days paid sick leave, i am out of here. If you want to give paid sick leave then do something about workmen's comp which is killing businesses and putting them out. If I was a business looking to relocate Ohio would be my last choice. Ohio feels it is a privilege to do business here when in fact it is the opposite. When employees start signing their names on the dotted line financially then they can vote on how pay should be done.

From John:
I am a realtor who works without the benefit of sick days and health insurance. I am able to appreciate the concern for business of some costs and abuse of mandated paid sick days. Ty's comments regarding businesses providing health insurance and other benefits including nurses on staff is hardly credible. The individuals this will mostly benefit are not white collar workers or skilled other workers who have usually have these benefits. It will help the hourly workers who have little perks at work to begin with and do not get regular pay increases of any substance. The market is not taking care of the "little guy" so the government must. By the way, how many paid sick and vacation days is Ty compensated for by his employer?

From Brandon:

Many folks believe that everyone would take all 7 sick days mandated to them, which is not true. Keep in mind that as folks navigate their career path, their supervisor would be aware of their use or abuse of this policy when it is time to ask for a pay raise or seek a promotion.

From Jennifer:
I give 2 weeks’ vacation and 4 days PTO per year minimum. Why should the state of Ohio make me give even more days off? Why can’t this be limited to offices that currently offer NO days off? This will cost me more than $30,000!

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