Fiona Ma for State Assembly
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Sick leave bill to get California Assembly hearing

SACRAMENTO - Assemblywoman Fiona Ma wants to provide some relief for the millions of California workers who face losing pay if they stay home sick.

The San Francisco Democrat has introduced legislation that would guarantee employees as many as nine days of paid sick leave a year to care for themselves or an ill family member. It also would apply to those recovering from domestic violence or a sexual assault.

"Healthy workers are productive workers," Ma said. "Studies have found that having paid sick days actually saves money for businesses by reducing turnover, by reducing the spread of illness in the workplace and improving workers' morale and productivity."

But at least a dozen business groups have lined up to oppose the bill, contending it would increase costs and liability. Business leaders also warn it could lower wages and reduce available health insurance.

In the worst-case scenario, the mandate could lead to job loss or reduced work hours, said Denise Davis, a spokeswoman for the California Chamber of Commerce.

"In an already troubled economy, California should be seeking ways to stimulate job growth and avoid forcing costly mandates on employers," she said in a statement.

Ma said about 40 percent of the state's work force, between 5 million and 6 million workers, do not get paid when they stay home sick.

Her bill, which is scheduled to be considered Wednesday by the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee, would enable workers who had been on the job for at least 90 days to use paid sick leave accrued at the rate of at least one hour for every 30 hours worked.

Companies with 10 or more workers would have to provide up to nine days of paid sick leave a year. Smaller businesses would have to give their employees as many as five days annually.

Employees taking sick leave would receive the same wages they are paid while at work.