Study: More Than 40 Percent of Minnesota's Workers Don't Have Paid Sick Days


Everyone's been there. Waking up on a weekday morning, so nauseous or bleary-eyed from a brutal cold or flu that even reaching for the phone is a chore. For most, the solution's easy -- call in sick, put your face back on your pillow, and recover.

And yet according to a new study from the Institute for Women's Policy Research, more than 40 percent of Minnesota's workers don't have that choice. Instead, they're stuck with two options: head to work in their unkempt, unsanitary state, or stay home and lose their pay.

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Looking deeper into the numbers, it gets even worse. The report says that while the vast majority of white-collar jobs in gigs like engineering, finance, and health care have paid time off, it's the lower-wage workers getting screwed. In the typically low-wage service sector, only 35 percent of workers get paid sick leave.

Across the country, that 41 percent number is actually right around average, according to a 2011 report from the Institute. But that doesn't mean it's right.

Without paid leave, says Jessica Milli, the author of the report, everyone's hurt. Leave a worker at home, she says, and research has shown they'll recover faster. But stick them at a job, and it's the opposite.

That's not to mention using paid sick leave to care for children. For them, it's the same thing -- if a parent can't stay home and watch their kid, then the child is probably headed to school. And being around the tornado of bacteria that is a typical school isn't exactly healthy for a kid on the mend.

"So obviously, that has effects on child's health," says Milli. "They're going to school when they shouldn't be" -- meaning sicker kids, viruses spreading through classrooms, and just a generally germier school experience.

In Minnesota, the biggest push for paid sick time has come from Rep. John Lesch (DFL-St. Paul), who has sponsored a number of sick leave bills since 2009. Last year's would have given an hour of sick leave to workers for every 30 hours they worked.

But yet again, it died. The plan is to renew the bill next session. Maybe with hearing a few more facts this time, the legislature will listen.

Send your story tips to the author, Robbie Feinberg. Follow him on Twitter @robbiefeinberg.