A recent report released by the Office of the District of Columbia Auditor (ODCA) on the district’s 2008 paid sick days law provides a welcome and much-needed assessment of the impact of this historic law, which was the nation’s second. We now have indisputable evidence that the sky-will-fall predictions of the law’s opponents were utterly baseless, and that the law should be strengthened and vigorously enforced.
An overwhelming majority of the D.C. businesses surveyed said that having to provide paid sick days would not cause them to move their businesses. These findings dispel the absurd claims that establishing a paid sick days standard harms or discourages business operations, putting to rest one of the most common arguments used by paid sick days opponents across the country.
The new ODCA report also shows that the law has increased the share of D.C. businesses that provide paid sick days. This is great news for workers who have gained access to the labor standard, their families and the D.C. public’s health. But an unacceptable 31 percent of those surveyed admit to not complying with the law. It is disturbing that, despite that admission, only two complaints about violations have been filed since its passage.
If the promise of the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2008 is to be fulfilled, the law must be strengthened and compliance and enforcement must become a priority. That is why we were pleased to see that the ODCA included key recommendations for addressing issues with the law, including the establishment of a process to review employer compliance and other important measures for ensuring better enforcement and accountability.
There are still too many workers in the district who do not have the right to earn paid sick days, including restaurant workers and tipped workers who have frequent contact with the public and need to be able to stay home when they are ill without sacrificing their financial stability. Giving these workers the right to earn paid sick days is essential to the well-being of the district.
This new report makes clear what many in the district have known for years: D.C.’s paid sick days law is working, but it is time for the D.C. City Council to strengthen it by expanding it to cover more workers and ensuring greater compliance from businesses. There is no reason for the Council not to do so and, until it does, working families and communities in the district will suffer.”
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