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Congress Members Introduce More Paid Sick Leave Legislation

U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Connecticut) and U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) introduced legislation yesterday that would guarantee paid sick leave for employees infected by the H1N1 virus (also known as “swine flu”). The legislation would take effect 15 days after being signed into law but would end after two years.

According to Dodd and DeLauro’s websites, the legislation would allow employees to earn up to seven paid sick days to use:

  • for their own flu-like symptoms, medical diagnosis, or preventive care;
  • to care for a sick child; or
  • to care for a child whose school or child-care facility is closed because of the spread of contagious illnesses, including the H1N1 virus.

Under the legislation, employees would be able to use their own discretion to determine whether they needed to take sick leave. Medical certification, however, could be required through U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) regulation.

According to Dodd, “H1N1 flu is a public health emergency — and slowing the spread of the disease must be one of our top priorities. This bill will allow individuals with the H1N1 flu to follow the recommendations of the CDC and stay home instead of coming to work while sick, and will also make it easier for parents to care for children who must stay home due to the flu or school and child-care closings. This is not simply a matter of workers’ rights — this is the right thing to do for families, and for the sake of everyone’s health.”

The Dodd-DeLauro legislation, which appears to be modeled after the Healthy Families Act, is also similar to the Emergency Influenza Containment Act (H.R. 3991), a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives George Miller (D-California) and Lynn Woolsey (D-California) on November 3. If enacted, this Act would guarantee five paid sick days for an employee sent home or directed to stay home by an employer for a contagious illness such as the H1N1 flu. Employees calling in sick on their own, however, wouldn’t trigger the pay requirement, and employees would be able to use the sick leave only for their own illness.

Keep up with the latest legal changes affecting employer benefits and trends in employee benefits with the Benefits and Compensation Law Alert and Benefits and Compensation Law for Nonprofits and with changes in federal employment laws in the Federal Employment Law Insider.

Find state-by-state comparisons of  employee leave laws, in 50 Employment Laws in 50 States.