California on brink of requiring paid sick days for part-time workers


California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) weighed in to support the sick leave bill at a critical moment. (Max Whittaker/Reuters)

Part-time and temporary workers in California could receive up to three paid sick days a year after a last-minute compromise passed the state legislature in the waning hours before adjournment.

The bill, a top priority of House and Senate Democrats, now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) desk. Brown is likely to sign the measure after publicly cheering its passage.

Brown’s input came after the measure lost support from some of the state’s largest unions. The Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees pulled their support for the bill after an amendment excluded home health-care workers.

About 7 million California residents, roughly 40 percent of the state’s workforce, are part-time or temporary workers who do not get benefits when they are sick, the Sacramento Bee reported.

With Brown’s signature, California will become the second state to offer paid sick leave for part-time and temporary workers, after Connecticut passed a similar bill in 2011. Democrats in California have been pushing paid sick leave since 2006, when San Francisco became the first city in the country to require employers to give their employees time off. In subsequent years, the District of Columbia, Seattle, Portland, Ore., New York City and Jersey City, N.J., among others, passed their own laws.

The New Jersey Assembly will take up a paid sick leave bill of their own later this month, Speaker Vincent Prieto (D) said in a statement in early August. But even if that law passes the Democratic-controlled legislature, it’s likely to be vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie (R).

In separate 2012 analyses, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control found that a lack of sick leave may act as a barrier to getting cancer testing and preventive medical care and that introducing or expanding paid sick leave could help reduce nonfatal work injuries, especially in high-risk occupations. Last summer, the Center for Economic Policy Research surveyed 251 Connecticut employers on their experience under the state’s 2011 paid sick leave law and found that more than three in four supported the law. The largest increases in paid sick leave coverage were seen in the health, education and social services, hospitality, and retail industries.

As of 2012, three in four full-time workers had access to paid sick leave, while only one in four part-time workers did, the Labor Department reported last year. Between 1992 and 2012, the cost for providing paid sick leave as a share of total compensation was unchanged. Then as now, it accounts for roughly 0.9 percent of total compensation. While it has become more widespread, however, paid sick leave policies have become less generous, as the chart below shows.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

In Sacramento, the legislature passed the measure early Saturday morning, as lawmakers raced to wrap up their yearly session. Legislators also passed three measures that would regulate ground water usage amid an historic drought; California is the last state in the West to pass ground water regulations. The bills would require local governments in vulnerable areas to develop ground water management plans.

Legislators on Friday voted to ban single-use plastic bags like those given out by grocery stores. Those stores would charge customers 10 cents for paper bags or reusable plastic bags. The state will provide $2 million in loans for manufacturers of single-use bags to transition to the more durable reusable bags.

Also headed to Brown’s desk: A bill that would allow family members and law enforcement officials to ask a court to issue restraining orders preventing someone from possession of a firearm if they are deemed a threat. The measure passed after a deadly mass shooting earlier this year in Isla Vista, where a mentally ill man killed six people and wounded 13 others before killing himself.

— Niraj Chokshi contributed to this report.

Reid Wilson covers national politics and Congress for The Washington Post. He is the author of Read In, The Post’s morning tip sheet on politics.

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Reid Wilson · August 30, 2014