With strong support from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the Senate voted 18 to 17 Wednesday to pass the nation's first state mandate on private employers to offer paid sick days. It now goes to the House, where passage is expected. The bill, which passed with only one Republican vote, has a limited reach, applying to dozens of specific types of service workers at companies with more than 50 employees. Sponsors say it will affect 300,000 workers.
But it was celebrated by labor as an important victory for low-wage workers and bemoaned by business as an ill-timed symbol of Connecticut's hostile business climate. "It makes our state a leader in terms of better public health and common sense and common decency," said Jon Green, director of the Working Families Party.
The Connecticut Business and Industry Association called the bill a betrayal by an administration and legislature that has promise to declare Connecticut "open for business."
"This bill is a travesty. It's an incredible disappointment," said Bonnie Stewart, a vice president of CBIA. "What this measure really does is slam the door in the face of business." The bill, which is expected to pass the House despite strong Republican opposition, requires affected companies to give one hour of sick time for every 40 hours of work, up to a maximum of five days a year. It is effective Jan. 1.
An employer can count vacation time, personal days and any other paid time off against the requirement. Seasonal and temporary workers are not covered. Supporters broke into applause as the tally was announced. Outside the chamber, the advocates posed for a photograph.
Sen. Edith G. Prague, D-Columbia, the lead sponsor, walked across the Senate chamber and shook hands with the sole Republican to vote yes, John A. Kissel of Enfield. "I am so proud we passed this legislation," Prague said, as supporters lined up to congratulate her.
Prague said the comptroller's office estimated the bill could mean new benefits for 300,000 workers, most them women and many of them with young children. The bill allows a parent to take a sick day to care for a sick child."I applaud the 18 senators who voted for this bill. This piece of legislation is a reasonable compromise that represents good public policy. It exempts industries where appropriate, it ensures that the benefit won't be abused, and most importantly, it protects public health," Malloy said.