Earned Sick Days Legislation Passes!

The Rhode Island General Assembly passed the Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act that will benefit more than 100,000 employees in the state as well as protecting all workers from retaliation for taking time off to care for themselves or a loved one.

“After tremendous effort by countless workers, advocates, and colleagues, today Rhode Island declared that every working person should be able to take care of themselves and their loved ones,” said Rep. Aaron Regunberg, House sponsor of the earned sick days bill. “This is a big deal. When parents send their kids to school sick; when people skip necessary care because they can't afford a day off; when workers are let go because of medical emergencies - these are matters of basic human dignity. I am proud that with this legislation, families and working people across our state can breath a sigh of relief, knowing that the awful choice - between one's health and one's paycheck - can become a thing of the past.”

“This bill protects all Rhode Islanders in terms of public health and providing for their families,” said Senator Maryellen Goodwin, the Senate sponsor of the bill. “It means working people — especially those in lower-wage positions that lack benefits — will finally have the ability to take care of themselves or their families when they are sick instead of coming to work, prolonging their illness and spreading it to coworkers and the public. For too many Rhode Islanders, staying home is just not an option because they can’t afford to go unpaid, and might even risk losing their jobs. Everyone gets sick from time to time, and staying home to rest and recover, or taking time to get medical help, means better health, and, ultimately, better productivity for businesses too.”

Starting in July of 2018, workers can take up to three earned sick days, phasing up to four days in 2019, and finally five days starting on January 1, 2020. Workers in businesses with 17 or fewer employees can take up to three unpaid sick days each year without fear of being fired. The bill also allows workers to earn time to use as “safe time” for those escaping domestic violence. Ninety percent of Rhode Island workers will now have access to paid sick days. In addition, another 44,000 workers can take unpaid sick days.

“This is a huge victory for working people. Everyone gets sick and everyone should be able to take time to care for themselves or their families. With the passage of this bill, Rhode Island has taken a big step forward in supporting the economic stability of working families and public health across the community,” said Georgia Hollister Isman, state director for Rhode Island Working Families.

Over 40 percent of Rhode Island’s private sector workers, approximately 170,000 employees, do not have access to a single day of sick time. These workers may forego medical care or risk financial instability when illness causes them to miss work. Workers in Rhode Island also lack protection from discipline or dismissal for short-term absences due to illness or domestic violence. The policy is widely popular among voters in Rhode Island. Polls show that over 80 percent of voters, including 90 percent of women and 68 percent of Republicans, support earned sick day legislation.

“Passing earned sick time helps many older people I work with who depend on their pay to live. Now when we get sick, my coworkers and I will no longer have to choose between missing a day's pay or coming to work sick,” said Sandy Annicelli, a school bus aide at Metro West First Student in Cranston and Johnston resident. Annicelli appeared in a video illustrating the bind that workers face when they or a family member get sick.

“The RI Coalition Against Domestic Violence is thrilled that the Sick and Safe Days legislation will be enacted. Not only will this legislation provide economic security for families trying to make ends meet, it will provide invaluable earned paid time off to seek services for Rhode Islanders experiencing domestic violence or sexual assault. This is of critical importance to survivors,” said Deborah DeBare, executive director of the RI Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

“Most workers have two options, go to work sick or lose pay,” said Casey Sardo, a health care worker from Pawtucket. “How was this acceptable in healthcare? Passing earned sick days is not just good for workers but patients too.”