On Tuesday, a House committee will consider a bill — H.R. 4219 — whose purpose is to preempt the paid sick days laws already passed in 10 states, the District of Columbia, and cities and counties across the country.
Mislabeled as the “Workflex” bill, it denies workers the flexibility to use paid time off when they need it. In addition, it undermines the rights employees have under state and local laws to earn paid sick days and to use them when they or their children need a day or two to recover from illness. Instead, the bill gives corporate employers the flexibility to decide whether and when a mother can use paid time off to stay home with a sick child. And, it fails to protect that mother from retaliation by her employer for using the paid sick days she has earned.
Like much other legislation opposed by the big business lobby, this bill is a solution in search of a problem. Professor Ruth Milkman and I conducted surveys and interviews at large and small companies in Connecticut and New York City after those jurisdictions passed laws that allowed workers to earn paid sick days.
These surveys revealed that, for most employers, implementing the law’s provisions was a non-event. In New York City, 94 percent of employers reported no change in productivity and 2 percent reported that productivity increased after the paid sick days law passed. In Connecticut, after a year-and-a-half of experience with the state’s earned paid sick days law, more than three-quarters of employers reported that they supported it.
The so-call Workflex bill is an affront to democracy as it calls on the federal government to undermine the right of voters or their elected representatives to pass laws that protect workers’ health and their ability to care for themselves and their children. False flag laws that pretend to give workers paid sick days but actually create a means for large corporations to evade state and local sick days provisions must be opposed.