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Being Sick Doesn’t Pay

Shira Yehudit Djalilmand

There’s a price to pay for coming down with the cold. InAmerica, 44 million people don’t have paid sick leave. Employees are forced to either show up at work coughing and sniffling, or risk losing their income, or even their jobs. A deeper look at the issue, plus the halachos of calling in sick.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

sick at workBeing penalized or fired for calling in sick sounds like something that only happens in infamous sweatshop-like toy companies inChina. But shockingly, it happens in the supposedly democratic West, too. Just last year, one of the biggest online shopping agencies made headlines when it was revealed that the company forced their packing staff to work seven days a week and threatened them with dismissal if they took time off for being sick.   

More than 145 countries provide some form of paid sick leave, with 127 (includingIsrael) providing a week or more annually and 98 (including theUK) paying for over a month. TheUS, however, is the only one of 22 highly developed nations that does not provide any form of paid sick leave.

In the private sector, 40 percent of workers have no paid sick leave. Among low-income earners, two thirds have no paid sick leave, and inNew York Cityalone, 50 percent of workers — 1,580,000 people — don’t get paid if they’re sick. Across the nation, that translates to a massive 44 million workers.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 does guarantee certain eligible workers’ jobs if they have to take sick leave, but it doesn’t require employers to pay workers during that time. Some jurisdictions in theUShave passed and put into practice paid sick leave laws — namely,San Francisco,Connecticut,WashingtonDC, andSeattle. There are also bills pending in other states such asMassachusettsandCalifornia. InNew York City, the majority of council members support a proposed city law to provide paid sick leave, but it won’t be brought to vote until the economy gets stronger — which could take a while.


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