Momentum Grows for Paid Sick Days in California

, Restaurant Opportunities Center of Los Angeles

What did you do for Valentine's Day?  On the most romantic day of the year and the highest grossing day for restaurants, chances are that you dined at a new or favorite restaurant. Chances are also high that the people who prepared, cooked, and served your food lack a basic workplace protection that makes restaurants healthy for workers and diners: Paid Sick Days.

Depending on what your job is, you might take for granted the fact that you can take off from work and still get paid if you are sick. But a report just released by Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) in Los Angeles shows that 89.4% of restaurant workers in the city do not have paid sick days and 58.3% have gone to work while sick. Workers reported they could not take time off when sick, either because they would be penalized or because they couldn't afford to lose pay. One worker reported having to work cooking food while sick with the H1N1 virus, because he could not afford to take a day off.

We are pretty sure the flu isn't something you want coming out of the kitchen when you go to a restaurant.

It's just common sense that sick workers should stay home. Both workers and customers benefit.  Yet some businesses and their lobbyists claim that basic workplace policies like paid sick days would be “job killers.”  Last week a study released by the independent, nonpartisan Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) provided clear evidence those claims are false.  San Francisco has had a citywide paid sick days policy since 2007. IWPR's report showed that two-thirds of employers are supportive of the policy and six out of seven reported the law had no negative effect on profitability.

Diners across the country have shown an increasing interest in sustainable food, including locally grown, organic and healthy cuisine.  But food will never be truly sustainable as long as it is prepared, cooked and served by workers who feel forced to work while sick because they fear losing their job or missing a paycheck.  This Valentine's Day, Assembly member Fiona Ma introduced AB400 to guarantee all California workers the right to paid sick days – a long overdue policy that benefits both workers and businesses. Click here to learn more about the California Paid Sick Days bill.