After California, Massachusetts voters could mandate paid sick leave

Massachusetts may soon become the third state to require employers to pay their workers for taking time off while sick. A statewide ballot measure in November would give one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, with an upward limit of 40 hours for the year.

The proposed law would require employers with more than 10 full-time employees to pay for sick time. For smaller businesses, workers would have the right to take time off while sick but wouldn’t collect payment. The measure would protect workers who take their earned time off from retaliation by employers.

“This is a small, but very significant step in the [economic] recovery that has missed a lot folks,” said Ellen Bravo, executive director at Family Values at Work, a national group advocating for paid sick days this year. Bravo noted that several states are also considering mandatory increases to their minimum wage laws this year, another national effort pitched as a boost to low-wage workers.

"We certainly see them as going hand-in-hand," she said. "Paid sick time is really about not being docked your pay. If I make a great wage, but I lose it because my kid gets sick, I’m not in great shape."

At least eight cities already have some kind of paid-sick-leave ordinance, including San Francisco, Seattle and Jersey City, N.J. Oakland, Calif., also has a ballot measure dealing with sick leave in November. Connecticut was the only state to have a law until California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a sick leave law Wednesday.

While each law is slightly different, laws generally allow workers to accrue paid sick time after a probationary period of employment and include exemptions or scaled-down provisions for small businesses. The time off might be for the worker, but also the worker's child, spouse or parent. It could be used to recover from an illness, attend a doctor’s appointment or deal with the effects of a violent incident.

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