Rep. Christine Chandler
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Rep. Christine Chandler introduced her HB 20 Healthy Workplaces Act Thursday afternoon to the Labor, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee during a four-hour long hearing where committee members also heard details of Rep. Angelica Rubio’s HB 37, the Paid Sick Leave Act.
At the conclusion of the hearing Committee Chair Rep. Eliseo Alcon directed the two legislators to come take the analyses of the two bills and come up with a combined bill before Tuesday that would be easier to get through the Judiciary Committee.
Chandler said HB 20 recognizes and supports the fundamental principle that employees that are sick should not be at work.
“It also supports families by ensuring workers time off to care for a relative or a loved one as well as supporting victims of sexual assault or domestic violence,” she said.
The provisions of the bill are pretty straight forward and allow employees to earn sick leave at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. It differentiates between businesses with fewer than 10 employees which would have to offer up to 40 hours a year, and businesses with more than employees that would have to offer 64 hours a year.
“Employees may use the sick leave they have earned to care for themselves or family members and to address issues associated with being a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault. The bill protects employees from retaliation. It protects existing collective bargaining agreements and existing leave programs. It provides an enforcement mechanism through the Department of Workforce Solutions and requires penalties to be levied against employers who fail to comply,” Chandler said.
She noted that the bill is not just an employee benefits bill.
“It’s that of course – because employees are definitely entitled to this kind of support in the workplace, but I think we need to emphasize the fact that it also supports worker health and safety, public health and safety, and all of that inures to the benefit of the employee but employers as well,” she said. “One thing that we’ve learned from the pandemic in the workplace is we do not workers coming in to work sick for many reasons. One is they are likely to get more sick before they get better, they are likely to infect other employees and to the extent that they work with the public, they’re likely to infect the public.”
She said that is not good for society or for the employer who loses productive work hours when all of those things happen. She added that sick leave is critical now more than ever.
Rubio’s comments on SB 37 were similar. She noted that nobody should have to choose between a paycheck and their life. She felt the two bills were close in their content and that she and Chandler would have no problem reaching a compromise on the provisions.