The D.C. City Council made history in 2008 when it passed the nation’s second paid sick days law, guaranteeing workers the right to earn sick time. Today, thanks to a hardworking, dedicated coalition, and action by Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and others, the Council has a chance to build on the law’s unqualified success and help realize its full promise.
That’s because the Earned Sick and Safe Leave Amendment Act — a bill that would strengthen and expand D.C.’s existing paid sick days law — was introduced today. It would benefit families, businesses and the local economy tremendously.
This summer, an audit of D.C.’s paid sick days law showed that it has been a big success: Access to paid sick days has gone up, and there have been no adverse effects for businesses, which belies predictions by the law’s opponents. This is great news.
But the audit also revealed that too many workers still cannot earn the paid sick days they need. That’s because too many employers are not complying with the law, too many workers are not yet eligible to earn the time they need, and too many workers simply are not covered by the law’s protections, including tipped restaurant workers and bartenders.
D.C.’s economy depends, in part, on its more than 2000 bars and restaurants, yet many of the 48,000 workers they employ cannot earn paid sick days. According to a 2011 survey of more than 500 D.C. restaurant workers, 59 percent say they have gone to work sick. This can have serious consequences for the public health.
Since the D.C. City Council last considered and approved paid sick days, much has changed and a number of other jurisdictions have done the same. The results, data and research are clear: Paid sick days benefit workers, families, businesses, the public health and local economies.
It is time for D.C. to build on the historic step it took four years ago. By expanding access to its paid sick days law and improving enforcement, D.C. will strengthen the financial stability and well-being of its families, businesses and economy — and the District of Columbia will remain a leader on this important issue.