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This week, Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Calif.) introduced the deceptively named Workflex in the 21st Century Act – H.R. 4219 – in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill is an obvious effort by the organized business lobby to reverse the paid sick days progress of recent years. Eight states and 32 localities now have, or will soon have, paid sick days laws in place thanks to the hard work of diverse coalitions of working people, advocates, business leaders and lawmakers. H.R. 4219 would severely undermine those protections by allowing companies to bypass the requirements if they voluntarily offer some paid time off and “substantially comply” with the requirements of the Walters proposal.
H.R. 4219 comes at a time when voters across the political spectrum say they want lawmakers to prioritize policies like paid family and medical leave and paid sick days. But H.R. 4219 does nothing to guarantee people dedicated time to address their personal and family health needs. Instead, it would allow companies to skirt hard-fought state and local paid sick days laws without guaranteeing their workers the right to the sick time they need when they need it, because employers will ultimately decide if, when and for what reasons people can use the time. The sham bill would create a dangerous new precedent that threatens public health, workers’ economic security and fairness for businesses.
The evidence clearly shows that paid sick days laws establish important baselines that reap widespread benefits for working people, businesses, communities, our economy and our public health. They guarantee people the right to earn paid time away from their jobs to recover from illness, care for a sick child or loved one and get preventive care. Most also allow workers to seek assistance and treatment related to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. In short, they help ensure that people are not forced to choose between their health or the health of a family member and a job.
At a time when more than 37 million people in the United States still do not have access to a single paid sick day, lawmakers need to be protecting and advancing paid sick days protections – not gutting them like H.R. 4219 would do. Specifically, we need a national paid sick days policy like the Healthy Families Act, which would ensure all workers – regardless of where they live or work or what job they hold – have the right to sick time. Members of Congress who are serious about providing workers with paid sick days will reject H.R. 4219 and instead prioritize the Healthy Families Act.
Federal lawmakers seek to thwart paid sick days progress and undermine state and local victories through a new bill introduced this week. Contrary to proponents’ claims, the so-called Workflex in the 21st Century Act – H.R. 4219 – would not guarantee paid sick days and could actually make it less certain that working people have the sick time they need.