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Will D.C. Council enhance sick leave rights?

In 2008, Washington, D.C., became the second city in the nation to mandate paid sick leave. Under the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act, many workers in D.C. now receive between three and seven paid sick days per year. However, certain professionals - including some health care workers and tipped workers - are exempt from the mandate. Last week, the D.C. Council announced that it will consider expanding the protections of the law to some of those workers.

Washington, D.C., is not the only area where sick leave rights may be enhanced. A paid sick leave movement is currently sweeping the nation, and many other cities and states are working to implement this important employment right.

Under the District's current sick leave law, workers have access to paid sick leave after they have worked for an employer for one year, and put in at least 1,000 hours.

The new proposal shortens the waiting period to take sick time to three months.

While many business owners are against sick leave laws, arguing it hurts their bottom lines, there are a number of bad business consequences that come from encouraging employees to come to work sick. Sick employees are often unproductive, and they put other employees at risk of getting sick, too - which can hurt productivity even more. Of course, in many industries, such as food service and health care, it is not even safe to ask workers to come in sick, and it sure is not good for a company's image.

Regardless of such concerns, workers here in Washington, D.C., should not have to make a choice between making a living and taking care of their health. And, thanks to the 2008 law, many workers do not have to do so. Employees in the D.C. area who have been denied sick leave - either leave that they believe should be paid or unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act - should seek legal counsel to learn whether their rights have been violated and what options might be available.

Source: The Washington Post, "D.C. Council may expand paid sick leave law," Rachel Sadon, Sept. 16, 2013

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