Fighting for Paid Sick Leave

Photo by Anh Nguyen on Unsplash

Take Action

  • Support the Healthy Families Act by signing this petition, which urges Congress to pass a national sick leave policy.

  • If you live in a state or city that has enacted a paid sick leave law, know your rights by researching how you are protected as an employee. Use this resource to get started.

  • Reach out to your local politicians and ask them to create a paid sick leave law for your city/state.

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise and flu season quickly creeps upon us, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has emphasized that reducing the spread of germs and respiratory illnesses is extremely important this fall and winter (CDC). And the best way to reduce the spread of both is for individuals to stay home when they’re feeling sick. However, this isn’t a luxury many workers have since there is no national sick leave policy in place.

The workers who are most affected by this are people of color and immigrants. For immigrants, only 50% have paid sick days compared to 60% of their native-born counterparts (The Center for Law and Policy). At the same time, more than 7.3 million Black workers can’t earn a single paid sick day (National Partnership for Women and Families). That’s roughly 40% of Black employees, and of those workers, 41% are Black men, and 36% are Black women (National Partnership for Women and Families).

And these numbers are even higher within the Latinx community. Despite them having the “highest labor force participation rate of any racial or ethnic group in the US and the fastest-growing segment of the workforce,” almost 15 million Latinx workers are unable to earn a single paid sick day (National Partnership for Women and Families). This includes 55% of Latinx men and 51% of Latinx women (National Partnership for Women and Families).

With Black and Latinx people primarily being paid less than their white and Asian counterparts, they can’t afford to take a day off. The median weekly earnings, in 2020, for full-time Black workers are $806 and $786 for Latinx workers while full-time white workers earn about $1,018 (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Compared to 83% of full-time workers who receive paid sick days, only 43% of part-time workers have paid sick leave (The Center for Law and Policy). With over 4 million people working fewer hours than they’d like and having to work multiple part-time jobs to support themselves and their families, they’re less likely to have guaranteed paid sick leave (The Center for Law and Policy).

Unfortunately, workers with low-wage jobs are more likely to deal with financial burdens. For example, more than 30% of black households have no savings or assets to utilize if a family member unexpectedly loses their job (National Partnership for Women and Families). And as of 2015, more than one in five black families were living in poverty (National Partnership for Women and Families). The same is true for Latinx families. Approximately 27% of Latinx households have no savings or assets to utilize during an unexpected loss of income. As of 2018, more than one in six Latinx families was living in poverty (National Partnership for Women and Families).

For low-income families, missing a few days of work can equate to losing a month’s worth of groceries, missing a rent payment, or not being able to pay a majority of their bills. But, maintaining perfect attendance at work means being able to feed their family, not being homeless, and not going into debt.

A lack of sick leave is extremely devastating to those who also serve as caregivers. Not only are they risking their health, but they’re risking the health of family members since they don’t have time to attend or prioritize medical appointments and emergencies (Essence). One in five Black people act as a caregiver to an adult family member or someone close to them, and 52% of these caregivers work full time (National Partnership for Women and Families). While more than one-quarter of Latinx individuals live in multigenerational households, so about 20% of them are caregivers for loved ones (National Partnership for Women and Families).

People of color need paid sick leave so that they can take care of themselves and their families. Yet, only 13 states and Washington D.C. have enacted laws that require employers to offer paid sick leaves. Depending on the state, you can receive one hour of sick leave for every 30, 35, or 40 hours of work. Some states require more, and those hours equate to three to seven paid sick days (National Conference of State Legislature). Unfortunately, each state has specific guidelines that determine who qualifies for paid sick leave, so do your research because not all employees are covered.

Even though some states have a paid sick leave policy in place, people of color are often reluctant to take advantage of it. A Pew Research study found that 69% of employees took less sick leaves because they couldn’t afford to lose money, while 47% were afraid they would risk losing their job if they asked for a sick day (Essence).

And some people don’t even know paid sick leave is an option for them. About one in five people don’t know if their employers offer any form of paid leave for situations such as routine doctor appointments, minor illnesses, and vacations (Essence). To fix this, employers need to let their employees know paid time off is available to them. They should have their policies posted in highly visible places around the office and ensure it’s written so that employees can understand them, which means posting the sick day policies in various languages (Essence).

To ensure all employees can take advantage of paid sick leave, we need to support the Healthy Families Act. This legislation ensures all American employees can earn up to seven days of paid sick time per year. Employees earn this by gaining an hour of sick leave for every 30 hours they work, and these sick days can be carried over to the next calendar year if they’re not used (The Center for Law and Policy). Sick days can be used for a multitude of reasons such as caring for their own physical or mental illness, caring for an injury or medical condition, obtaining a medical diagnosis, receiving preventive care, and caring for a family member, child, spouse, or loved one (The Center for Law and Policy). Read the National Partnership for Women and Families Fact Sheet to learn more about the Healthy Families Act.

There are over 32 million workers, who can’t earn paid sick leave, and we need to change that. No one should feel forced to choose between their health, their families’ health, and their financial security when they’re feeling sick.

Key Takeaways

  • Approximately 7.3 million Black workers and 15 million Latinx workers can’t earn a single day of paid sick leave (National Partnership for Women and Families).

  • People of color make less than their white counterparts, which hinders their ability to take a day off.

  • 83% of full-time workers receive paid sick days, while only 43% of part-time workers have paid sick leave (The Center for Law and Policy).

  • Only 13 states and Washington D.C. have laws that require employers to offer paid sick leave (National Conference of State Legislature).

  • 69% of employees took less sick leaves because they couldn’t afford to lose money, while 47% were afraid they would risk losing their job if they asked for a sick day (Essence).

  • The Healthy Families Act is a legislation that aims to create a national paid sick leave policy.

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