The First State to Pass Sick Leave Laws is Trying to Kill Them Now

America is a land built on hard work, and that's a good thing. The American Dream itself is predicated on the fact that if you truly work hard enough, no matter who you are or where you come from, you can better your life.

But that also means that America is the most overworked developed country in the world. Almost 75% of Americans work over 40 hours a week, which means we work way more than our counterparts in developed nations: We work 137 hours more than the Japanese, 260 more than the British, and a whopping 499 more than the French. This isn't just a matter of comparing numbers either. The amount of work the average citizen does has a direct correlation with general levels of stress and the overall quality of life in a country. 

A huge factor in America's overworkedness is the fact that we have no laws that mandate annual leave, unlike every single other industrialized nation.

Two years ago, Connecticut made history when it became the first state to mandate paid sick leave at the rate of one hour of sick leave for every forty hours worked. This is still a paltry amount when compared to other countries, where federal law mandates between 20 and 30 paid vacation days a year. But it's still a step in the right direction. More importantly, Connecticut's bold move kickstarted a national movement to enact paid sick leave at the city and state level, now officially mandated in New York, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington DC.

Unfortunately, Connecticut's legislature is now considering passing a bill that would create giant loopholes in their mandated paid leave law. S.B. 1007 would create an exception to the bill that allowed administrative offices to ignore the paid leave law, and employees would no longer get an hour of leave for every 40 hours worked, but for every 40 hours scheduled, which can easily be circumvented by issuing last-minute schedules or even avoiding creating set schedules altogether. The bill also lets employers determine how much sick leave an employee can use at one time. For example, someone requesting two hours of sick leave to visit the doctor can, under this bill, be forced to take the whole day off. None of these options are beneficial for workers.

Such bills are pushed by big businesses, who are trained to believe that paid sick leave or vacation days will lead to greater costs and lazier workers. But if you think about it logically, and remember that workers are people and not machines, doesn't it make sense that people who are able to take sick leave or have vacation days will be better, more efficient workers when they're in the office, rather than those who are miserably forced to work constantly?

Research would back you up on that. In San Francisco, when their sick leave policy was implemented, it actually increased business expansion and job growth. And other studies have shown that sick workers actually hurt the company far more by coming into the office than staying home because they usually get other people sick, are less productive, and stay sick longer.

So the only real success that Connecticut's new bill would accomplish is giving businesses the assurance that their workers are still overworked, still tired, and still miserably clogging away. Somehow, that doesn't feel like a victory to me. 

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Medha Chandorkar

As a junior at Georgetown University in Washington DC, I'm studying Government, Women's and Gender Studies, and Justice and Peace Studies. I'm interested in social justice issues, particularly women's rights in the developing world, and politics. Outside of school, I love dancing and reading, and I'm a huge TV / movie buff. In the future, I hope to become a lawyer but right now, I'm just focused on the moment.

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