On Wednesday, January 29, the Washington State House of Representatives passed House Bill 1313, which establishes minimum standards for one million Washington workers—one third of the state’s workforce—to accrue paid sick and safe time.

“No working family should be forced to leave a sick child at home or go to work with the flu for fear of losing their paycheck. Today’s paid sick days bill means they won’t have to,” Representative Laurie Jinkins (D), the bill’s prime sponsor, said in a statement. “I am proud of how small businesses, community groups, faith leaders and workers have come together with lawmakers to pass a bill that strengthens our families and communities.”

The bill will protect one million Washington workers who do not currently have access to paid sick days, supporters say.

“No one should be forced to go to work sick, no one should worry that they’re going to lose their job if they have to stay home because they’re sick with a sick child,” Jinkins said before the House on Wednesday. “And you shouldn’t have to choose whether or not to stay home with your sick kid or put food on your table for that kid at the end of the week. That’s what we have happening today.”

Republican opponents to the bill argued that the requirement would put a strain on small business owners, who they say already take care of their sick employees.

“To assume that the small businesses and businesses of Washington state have no moral conscience, no moral code with which they are operating that there is no concern about their employees, Mr. Speaker, you know better and I know better,” Rep. Norma Smith (R) said in opposition to the bill before the House.

HB 1313 will allow employees to earn 5 to 9 days of paid sick and safe leave, depending on the employer’s size. The bill will bring new sick leave protection to hundreds of thousands of workers including 140,000 in accommodation and food service, 150,000 in retail, and 90,000 in health care and social assistance.

Under HB 1313, employees will accrue one hour of paid sick leave time for every 40 hours worked or for every 30 hours worked if their employer has over 250 full-time employees. Workers may use sick and safe time for their own illness or injury, diagnosis or preventative care, or for the health needs of a child, spouse, domestic partner, parent-in-law or grandparent. Workers may also use sick and safe time to cope with the consequences of domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking. The bill was sponsored by Representatives Farrell, Morrell, Green, Dunshee, Lytton, Sawyer, Sells, Fitzgibbon, Riccelli, Moeller, Appleton, Reykdal, Roberts, Ryu, Pollet and Moscoso.

“Today, the Washington State House of Representatives took a step toward strengthening the economic security of working families,” said Marilyn Watkins, director of the Washington Work and Family Coalition, in a statement. “Washington’s families, communities and economy will be stronger when working people have enough income to cover the basics while protecting their own health and caring for their loved ones.”

Connecticut, Jersey City, Newark, New York City, Portland, OR, San Francisco, SeaTac, Seattle, and Washington D.C. have passed laws allowing workers to accrue paid sick leave.

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