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Activists Make Another Push For State Sick Leave Law

DANIELA ALTIMARI

February 10, 2009

One day a few weeks back, Gloria Duquette woke up with a raging fever and bad case of exhaustion.

Rather than spend the day in bed, treating what she suspected was the flu with rest and plenty of liquids, she dragged herself to her job as a home health aide.

"Whether I'm sick or not, I go to work," Duquette said. "As long as I'm not in the hospital, I'm going to get up and go in because I need the money."

A coalition of advocacy groups, led by Connecticut Working Families, is pushing for a change. Arguing that 40 percent of Connecticut employees don't get sick days, it wants lawmakers to require every business of 50 employees or more to grant workers one hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours of work with a cap of 6.5 paid days a year.

Such a law, advocates said at a press conference Monday, makes sense, and not just on human terms. Sick employees who come to work pose a potential public health hazard, spreading germs to their co-workers and to members of the public.

Do you really want someone with the flu making your sandwich? asked Sen. John Kissel, a Republican from Enfield and co-sponsor of the measure. "That's just bad public policy," he added.

Moreover, workers who refuse to stay home when sick can risk becoming sicker, said Dr. Laurel Baldwin-Ragaven, a family physician in Hartford.

The measure, which passed in the state Senate last year but did not come up for a vote in the House, has bipartisan support.

But Gov. M. Jodi Rell and the Connecticut Business and Industry Association oppose it. The CBIA says it will add yet another burden on already struggling businesses.

"In today's economy, businesses are making some really hard choices," said Kia Murrell, assistant counsel at CBIA. Connecticut already has a high minimum wage, a generous family and medical leave policy and a number of other requirements that have proved costly to businesses, she said.

"Now is the worst time to increase mandates on businesses in this state," Murrell said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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