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‘I could barely walk.’ New law extends sick days to nearly all CT workers

A new law signed by Gov. Ned Lamont will give almost all Connecticut workers paid sick days.

John Craven

May 28, 2024, 9:14 PM

Updated 23 days ago

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Nearly all Connecticut workers will get paid sick days under a new law that Gov. Ned Lamont just signed.
Small businesses are worried about the extra cost and paperwork, but part-time workers said sick days could be a game-changer for them.
NO SICK DAYS
In 2021, Kimberly Okeke, of East Hartford, had a medical emergency. But her first concern wasn’t surgery; it was taking time off from work. None of her three jobs offered any sick leave.
“I thought I could get up and work. Tried to; I could barely walk,” she said. “I was just like, ‘You know, how am I going to be able to financially provide for myself?’”
Okeke is not alone. Currently, only businesses with more than 50 employees are required to offer sick time. And even then, only “service workers” qualify – including cashiers, nurses, child care workers and hair stylists.
Although most businesses offer time off voluntarily, domestic workers often have to fend for themselves.
“It is not fair for us, when we work many hours at a time, we feel a lot of pain in our body,” said housekeeper Patricia Brispo.
NEW LAW
Okeke stood next to Lamont during a bill signing ceremony in New Haven on Tuesday.
"This has been a long time coming," the governor said.
The new law extends five days per year of paid sick time to nearly all workers in Connecticut. It also allows workers to care for additional family members, and lets them use sick days for a public health emergency.
To help small businesses adjust, the law will be phased-in over three years. In January 2025, employers with more than 25 workers must offer sick days. In 2026, that drops to 11 employees. By January 2027, nearly all workers will get paid sick leave. Companies can use vacation days to meet the sick time requirement.
Seasonal employees – like amusement park and summer camp workers – are exempt. Employees must be on the payroll for at least 120 days to use sick days.
TOO COSTLY AND COMPLICATED?
In spite of the concessions, the Connecticut Business and Industry Association believes the new law is another burden on small businesses.
“They’re already trying to figure out MyCTSavings, paid family leave – now paid sick leave – captive audience,” said CBIA president Chris DiPentima. “All these bills that have passed in the past four years here in Connecticut."
Critics have also slammed a provision letting workers take time off without a doctor’s note.
“This is not sick leave,” said state Rep. Steve Weir (R-Hebron), who founded a property restoration company, said during debate on the bill. “This could be for someone to take a day off and go to the beach.”
Businesses who don’t comply could face penalties from the Connecticut Department of Labor.
But one small business owner said sick days actually save him money with less turnover and healthier employees.
“Happy and healthy employees are the backbone of a successful business,” said Greg Simpkins, owner of Avalanche Tree and Landscaping in New Haven. “In the past, many workers had to choose between health and their paycheck – often coming into work sick because they couldn’t take the time off.”
RIFT WITH LABOR UNIONS
Despite the show of unity, labor unions aren’t getting everything they want. Lamont reiterated that he will veto another bill giving state benefits to striking workers.
“That bill is not going to go forward. We will veto that,” Lamont told reporters. “I didn’t really like the way that bill came forward, and no public hearings and no discussion, and never even mentioned the words ‘striking workers’ in it.”
Democratic lawmakers approved the legislation just minutes before their May 8 deadline. The legislation does not directly mention striking workers. Instead, it creates a new $3 million “Connecticut Families and Workers Account” administered by the state comptroller – a way to avoid hitting businesses with higher unemployment premiums.
Republicans have praised Lamont’s stance.
“The governor recognizes the absolute absurdity of the brazen bill that all of his fellow Democrats voted for," Senate GOP leaders said in a statement on May 9. “They signed off on a bill which had no public hearing, so they willingly silenced the voice of the people. They voted yes to create a slush fund for the State Comptroller.”
Progressive Democrats said they are “disappointed” with Lamont’s decision, but noted that the governor initially opposed sick leave for all workers too.
“We want to have a level playing field,” said state Sen. Julie Kushner (D-Danbury). “If a worker decides to exercise their rights under the law, they should have the ability to be able to feed their family during the strike.”


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