Labor

California Workers Get Ready to Start the Paid Sick-Leave Era


The most populous state in the U.S. will soon become only the second to require private-sector employers to give their workers paid sick days.

By a 52-21 vote over the weekend, the California State Assembly sent a sick-leave bill to Governor Jerry Brown, who’s signaled he will sign it into law. Starting in July, most workers will earn an hour of paid leave for each 30 hours worked, as much as three days a year. A report released last month by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimated that 44 percent of California workers currently lack access to paid sick leave.

The country’s first and only other statewide law requiring paid sick leave passed three years ago in Connecticut. The first such citywide law dates back to 2006, and similar measures have since been adopted in New York, Portland, Ore., San Diego, Seattle, and Washington.

While industry groups in California and elsewhere have fought to stop such policies, supporters say the results show businesses have little to be concerned about. A weighted survey of Connecticut employers, released earlier this year by the City University of New York and the progressive Center for Economic and Policy Research, found that 86 percent of employers reported no cases of employees abusing sick days. Forty-six percent of employers surveyed observed no change in their overall costs as a result of the law, and more than three-fourths declared support for it.

A 2011 survey from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that two-thirds of employers supported San Francisco’s flagship leave law.

The push for statewide paid sick-leave legislation moves next to New Jersey, where three cities have passed such laws and Democratic legislators expect to send a bill to the desk of Governor Chris Christie. There’s little reason to expect the high-profile Republican will sign it.

Eidelson is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek in Washington.

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