At the start of flu season, the push for mandatory paid sick days increases

Cleveland Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Showing up to work with a contagious illness like the flu is turning out to be just as much an employment issue as a public health concern.

Many with influenza are on the job because had they stayed home, they wouldn't have gotten paid.

The start of flu season in recent years has often re-ignited the debate about whether companies should be required to offer paid sick days. Opponents of mandating such time off say it is costly, especially for small businesses that often operate on thin profit margins. Supporters say it is more costly not to provide paid sick days because the workplace is a prime location for people to get infected.

Mandatory paid sick time appears to be increasing in popularity. New York City, Portland, Ore. and Jersey City, NJ passed paid sick day laws this year. In 2012, Seattle and Connecticut, the only state with such a provision, passed paid sick laws. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, a Democrat, sponsored paid sick legislation this year,which remains in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

About 40 percent of workers don't have paid sick days, according to the Labor Department. Harriet Applegate, who heads the North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor, said people should be outraged so many workers don't have sick time.

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At the start of flu season, the push for mandatory paid sick days increases »