Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Healthy Families Act appears headed to November ballot


The Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that Ohioans for Healthy Families has submitted to the Secretary of State double the number of signatures needs to place the Healthy Families Act on the November ballot. The battle lines are being drawn between supporters of the ballot initiative and Ohioans to Protect Jobs and Fair Benefits, a coalition of businesses that opposes the initiative as bad for Ohio businesses. Governor Strickland continues to seek a compromise to keep this job-killing measure off the ballot. Ohioans to Protect Jobs and Fair Benefits, however, rightly believes that a compromise is impossible: "The premise of this proposal - to require a costly state-imposed employee benefit that no other state now requires - is unacceptable on its face."

Meanwhile, another story in this morning's Plain Dealer illustrates one of the key problems with the Healthy Families Act. It seems that Cleveland has been spot-checking its safety employees' use of sick time:

For the past 18 months, EMS and firefighter supervisors haven't just been rushing to fires or medical emergencies, they've also been checking up on employees who called in sick.

The checks are done when more than five call off on any day or when people use sick days around holidays and vacations. Employees who don't answer the door when supervisors knock must produce a note or other proof that they visited the doctor or pharmacy or face discipline.

Last week, EMS began pre-discipline hearings for 36 paramedics over sick-time use. Firefighters have already been disciplined.

Employees who call off sick force the city to pay overtime to maintain minimum staffing levels, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. If the city didn't pay the overtime, fire trucks and ambulances would sit idle, said Safety Director Martin Flask.

"Sick time has a detrimental impact on safety services," he said. "Rules have to be followed."

If the Healthy Families Act becomes law, this practice might become illegal. Section 4114.10(C)(2) of the proposed law states: "No employer shall discharge or in any manner discriminate against any employee for opposing any practice made unlawful by this Act, including ... Using paid sick leave taken pursuant to this Act as a negative factor in an employment action, such as hiring, promotion, or a disciplinary action." Checking whether an employee's use of sick leave is legitimate could be construed as violating this provision. In other words, as the law is written, employees committing fraud by taking illegitimate time off work could hide behind the law to protect their jobs.

For more information on how you can help defeat the Healthy Families Act, visit www.saveourjobsandbenefits.com.

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