Only in America: Flu outbreak fuels sick leave debate

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NBC Today: Flu outbreak fuels paid sick leave debate (Click to watch in new window)

While it’s heartening to see the discussion over paid sick days reach a national outlet like NBC Today – even if it takes a flu epidemic to make it happen – it’s worth remembering the United States is the only developed nation that doesn’t guarantee paid sick days or paid sick leave to workers.

Under current U.S. labor law, employers are not required to provide short-term paid sick days or longer-term paid sick leave. By relying solely on voluntary employer policies to provide paid sick days or leave to employees, tens of millions of U.S. workers are without paid sick days or leave. As a result, each year millions of American workers go to work sick, lowering productivity and potentially spreading illness to their coworkers and customers.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Representative Rosa DeLauro (CT) and Senator Tom Harkin (IA), are calling on their colleagues in the House and Senate to cosponsor the Healthy Families Act (HFA). First introduced in 2004 by Congresswoman DeLauro and Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Healthy Families Act (summary | full text) would enable workers to earn up 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 7 days’ worth of paid leave.

DeLauro and Harkin plan to reintroduce HFA in mid-February.

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