Healthy Families Act legislation, which would require employers with 15 or more employees to provide workers with up to seven days of paid sick leave, was again introduced in the both the House and Senate on May 12, 2011 (H.R. 1876, S. 984). The House and Senate bills were identical and both were referred for committee review.

Proponents of the bills state that workers without paid sick leave report to work when ill (referred to as "presenteeism"), which generally results in the employees’ symptoms lasting longer and, with contagious illnesses, the infection of co-workers. The proponents assert that presenteeism costs employers $160 billion in lost productivity.

The details for the bills include the following:

  • Workers would earn up to 56 hours (seven days) paid leave in a calendar year.
  • Workers could use the leave to recover from their own illnesses, to care for an ill family member, to obtain medical (preventive or diagnostic) treatment, or to seek care if they are the victims of domestic violence or sexual assault.
  • Employers with sick leave policies that meet the bills’ standards would not be required to change their policies.
  • Employers would be permitted to require workers to provide documentation supporting any sick leave absences lasting longer than three consecutive days.

Since 2004, similar legislation has been introduced in Congress multiple times but never obtained sufficient support for passage, primarily because of the cost to employers. It is not clear that the present Healthy Families Act has the necessary support for passage. Foley will follow this legislation closely and provide updates in future editions of our Legal News: Employment Law Update.