paid sick days

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After having delivered prime-time telecasts from the Olympic Games since 1988, NBC’s Bob Costas had to step aside due to a pink eye infection. For millions of US workers, missing work due to illness can mean losing pay or even being fired — which makes it hard for them to stay home and spare their co-workers from disease exposure. Several states are considering legislation to assure workers can earn paid sick leave.

In last night’s State of the Union speech, President Obama addressed several ways to “make sure our economy honors the dignity of work, and hard work pays off for every single American.” Legislation already introduced in Congress would raise the minimum wage, expand access to paid sick days, and create a social insurance system for paid medical and family leave — but Congress hasn’t voted on the bills. In the absence of federal action, state and local governments are stepping up.

At the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting in Boston this week, the organization officially approved 17 policy statements, including one calling for the US to improve access to paid sick and family leave and one urging OSHA to require workplace injury and illness prevention programs.

Nearly 150 witnesses signed up to testify at a DC Council hearing on expanding access to paid sick leave and raising the minimum wage.