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Thu Jan 10, 2013, 05:38 PM

During The Worst Flu Season In A Decade, Workers Across The Country Can’t Stay Home Sick

http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/01/10/1430981/worst-flu-season-paid-sick-days/

During The Worst Flu Season In A Decade, Workers Across The Country Can’t Stay Home Sick

By Pat Garofalo on Jan 10, 2013 at 3:15 pm


The 2013 flu season is in full swing, and according to the Centers for Disease Control, it will be the worst in ten years. The New York Times reported that “the country is in the grip of three emerging flu or flulike epidemics: an early start to the annual flu season with an unusually aggressive virus, a surge in a new type of norovirus, and the worst whooping cough outbreak in 60 years.”

The CDC recommends that those who experience flu-like symptoms “should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care.” However, for a huge number of American workers, that option doesn’t exist due to a lack of paid sick days. 40 percent of private sector workers and a whopping 80 percent of low-income workers do not have a single paid sick day. One in five workers reports losing their job or being threatened with dismissal for wanting to take time off while sick.

This problem is especially acute in the food industry, with its high potential for spreading disease. 79 percent of food workers say they have no paid sick time.

Lack of paid sick time led to an estimated 5 million additional cases of H1N1 flu in 2009, according to a study in the American Journal of Public Health. And as the National Partnership for Women and Families noted, paid sick days don’t just benefit workers, but businesses and the economy as well:

Replacing workers can cost anywhere from 25 to 200 percent of annual compensation. Paid sick days result in reduced turnover, which leads to reduced costs incurred from advertising, interviewing and training new hires. This is particularly important in lower-wage industries where turnover is highest. Employers also reap the benefits of greater worker loyalty…Paid sick days help to decrease the productivity lost when employees work sick – known as “presenteeism” – which is estimated to cost our national economy $160 billion annually, surpassing the cost of absenteeism. The majority of human resources executives agree that presenteeism is a problem because of potential productivity loss and the risk of spreading infection.


For an average family, “missing work for just three-and-a-half days results in lost wages equivalent to an entire month’s grocery bill.” Paid sick days guard against that outcome, while ensuring that businesses stay productive.

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Arrow 13 replies Author Time Post
Reply During The Worst Flu Season In A Decade, Workers Across The Country Can’t Stay Home Sick (Original post)
babylonsister Jan 2013 OP
CaliforniaPeggy Jan 2013 #1
Turbineguy Jan 2013 #2
eppur_se_muova Jan 2013 #10
Mnemosyne Jan 2013 #3
KatyaR Jan 2013 #4
NMDemDist2 Jan 2013 #5
smirkymonkey Jan 2013 #6
FailureToCommunicate Jan 2013 #7
OnionPatch Jan 2013 #11
LanternWaste Jan 2013 #8
Heywood J Jan 2013 #9
Brickbat Jan 2013 #12
FreeJoe Jan 2013 #13

Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 05:42 PM

1. It's a horrible situation.

People need to have sick days to get well, and also to avoid spreading their illness to others.

Having someone work sick does no one any favors.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 05:51 PM

2. What this country needs is more personal responsibility.

When you go to work sick, don't exhale!

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Response to Turbineguy (Reply #2)

Fri Jan 11, 2013, 05:43 PM

10. +1 for the perfect wingnut response nt

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 05:55 PM

3. Missing three-and-half days work, for minimum/slightly above wage jobs can result in being fired. nt

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 07:16 PM

4. It's not just about sick leave.

Several people in my organization got sick over the holidays. My boss started getting sick before Christmas and ended up with pneumonia. The doc wanted to put her in the hospital but they decided she could rest at home just as well. She had a little over 2 weeks off and came back after New Year's still sick. She had 2 spots in one lung and still has one as of yesterday. She stayed home one day last week but is now back full time.

Another employee was in bed for over a week and came back to work still needing to be home, she could barely hold her head up. Her first 2 days at work? First day worked until 7 pm, the next until 9 pm.

My organization has enough people to assign work to but not enough to cover for someone if they're not at work. So people end up coming to work no matter what because the work has to get done. (This goes for vacations as well. I lost 4 days of paid leave last year because I couldn't take the time off.) And if they do stay home? If they are conscious, they're probably trying to work, not always because they want to but because somebody calls or emails them and needs something RIGHT NOW.

I pray to the heavens I don't get the flu. I have multiple major deadlines between now and April 1 and no one to cover for me if I'm sick.

Modern-day employment can suck sometimes.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 08:06 PM

5. self explanatory headline

the flu is so bad because people bring it to work and infect co-workers

rinse - repeat

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 08:17 PM

6. So people come in sick and infect eveyone else.

And nobody is productive. Great plan. Something is really fucked up in this country.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 08:30 PM

7. I know a number of salaried people who work while sick to show 'resolve' or

'toughness' or keep an 'unbroken' record of no sick days.

These are some of the same ones who got no flu shot because they "forgot" or "don't believe it makes a difference"

AND a few of these same ones still sneeze into their hand!

Talking to them does little to change their minds.

Their reaction borders on total denial of reality!

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Response to FailureToCommunicate (Reply #7)

Fri Jan 11, 2013, 06:48 PM

11. It's unheard of in my company to stay home for more than two days.

Even if you have the flu. You'll be labeled a slacker. It's disgusting. On top of that, we have only five sick days a year. And this is a very profitable company. You could use five days on a single flu if you actually stayed home like you should. That leaves NOTHING in case you get sick again or need to stay home with a child. Thank goodness we can often work from home but now people feel obligated to work from their sick beds! It's ridiculous. But apparently were lucky compared to most.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 08:48 PM

8. I think my own office dramatically illustrates this...

I think my own office dramatically illustrates this. In my department, there are 26 hourly employees-- no sick time, comp, time or flex time, and we're currently working 60-weeks (have been since 1st week of Dec, and will be until 1st week of Feb). Don't get me wrong, the employees love the overtime.

In late Dec, just prior to Christmas, one employee came in with flue symptoms, but stayed at her desk to avoid losing any pay. Currently, I'd hazard that 20 of my co-workers are sneezing, sniffling, coughing, hacking, and wheezing... but all working 12 hour days to avoid losing pay while continuing to spread this horrible cycle of the flu.

Now that we've finally spread to their families, a number of female workers (never guys though... I've wondered about that) are forced to take time off to care for infants and school children who cannot go to school or stay home unsupervised.

I've advised everyone to take a day or two off if they feel bad, but I can't (or wouldn't if I could) enforce that, and they can't afford it anyway-- the overtime is a blessing for most of them and they don't want to lose even one day of work and reduce their hours. It's a crappy situation all the way around.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Fri Jan 11, 2013, 08:35 AM

9. "79 percent of food workers say they have no paid sick time."

One of the reasons I avoid restaurants right now, until the flu dies down for the winter. If the owners wanted more business, they should allow the employees to go home sick instead of continuing to handle food for the general population.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Fri Jan 11, 2013, 06:52 PM

12. Instead of the CDC (or in the past few years, the administration itself) telling workers to stay

home, they should be telling employers to overhaul their leave policies so people can stay home and not get others sick.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Fri Jan 11, 2013, 09:26 PM

13. Makes me thankful for my company

I get 7 weeks of Paid Time Off per year. I can use it for vacation, when I'm sick, when a family member is sick, or when I just feel like it. We also have an onsite company doctor that gives out free flu shots every year. When someone does show up to work sick, corporate cultural (at least in our department), strongly pushes them to go home. If they have work they feel they need to do, they can do it at home.

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