Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ohio pushes to be on the forefront of paid sick leave

This morning's Columbus Dispatch reports that supporters of the proposed Ohio Healthy Families Act (a union-led, statewide coalition) have collected the required 140,000 signatures to put the statute before the General Assembly when it begins its 2008 session in January. If the legislature fails to act within 120 days, supporters could collect another 120,683 signatures to submit the issue to voters in the November election.

The proposed law would require all companies with at least 25 employees to give employees who work at least 30 hours a week 7 paid sick days a year. Part-time workers would receive a prorated number of paid days off. Employees would be able to use the sick days for themselves or to care for a child, parent, or spouse, and for physical and mental illnesses, injuries, other medical conditions, and preventative care. Employees would also be able to carry over a maximum of 7 unused sick days from year to year. The proposed law mirrors the FMLA on issues such as notice, medical certifications, and anti-retaliation.

While this law will clearly impact those small businesses that currently do not provide for any paid leave, even those employers who already provide paid sick leave should be concerned about this proposal. It will make it harder to monitor and enforce attendance policies, provide a potential disincentive for employees to return from sick leaves, and create a new cause of action employers will have to defend against. Additionally, the potential of a November 2008 ballot initiative adds intrigue to this issue. Will a liberal issue such as paid sick leave draw more Democrats to the polls and help carry Ohio for that party in the Presidential election? Does that risk create an incentive for the Republicans to act on this initiative in January? This law would put Ohio out in front of the curve on this issue, as it would be only the 4th state to enact a paid leave of absence law, fairly progressive for a state that is not known as such.

Click here for the full text of the Ohio Healthy Families Act.