The organization Citizens for a Greater Orange County has come out in full force recently in hopes that an initiative to provide paid sick time for workers will be put on the ballot in November. The measure would require businesses with more than 15 workers to provide one hour of paid sick time for every 37 hours an employee works, up to 56 hours. It would not apply to businesses with fewer than 15 employees, but those smaller businesses would be prohibited from punishing an employee for taking unpaid sick leave.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the petition requires 43,605 signatures by Aug. 7 in order to be put before the county commission, and the clock is ticking. Three other districts still need 14,000 signatures. Republican Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs opposes the initiative, asserting that it would cause smaller businesses more fiscal harm than good. “I am a strong believer in a free market and businesses being able to make these types of decisions,” Jacobs told the Orlando Sentinel.
The push for a manageable amount of sick days has little to do with cost or politics and everything to do with public health. A majority of jobs that do not offer these types of benefits are low-paying public service positions such as retail and food service. Do you really want the people who prepare your meals or bag your groceries coming to work with the flu because they fear that if they don’t, they’ll be fired for calling in sick to work?
Of course, the simple solution would be to just bring the boss a doctor’s note. But if you’re one of the nearly 4 million Floridians who doesn’t have health insurance, that’s not a viable option either. As a right-to-work state, Florida provides its employers with more legal coverage than those who are employed here, and there is practically nothing standing between an employee taking a sick day and being fired. General labor regulations prohibit firing an employee based on discrimination and obvious cases of the like, but the law protects employees from little else.
“We know that 80 percent of the people who do not have earned sick time are low-wage workers,” CGOC organizer Stephanie Porta told the Orlando Sentinel. “This would give them the economic security they need and really help their day-to-day lives.” Employers, just like the rest of us, are aware of the 8.6 percent unemployment rate in the state and know that their workforce is more or less expendable. This proposal would provide a minimum amount of job security for those who fear losing their job over a cold or single parents who feel they must choose between being employed and taking care of their sick child.