Democrats propose national sick leave bill

Joined by 22 other members of the Democratic caucus, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) has introduced legislation that will provide some degree of paid sick leave for all Americans and force employers to allow workers to take a minimal amount of time off to care for themselves or a sick child.

"As members of Congress, we don't lose our pay or risk our jobs if we stay home because of illness. But millions of our fellow citizens are not so fortunate," said Kennedy, in introducing the legislation late last week. "Every parent knows what it's like to care for a sick child, and every child knows the importance of a parent taking care of them when they are ill. Yet, every day, countless Americans find their paychecks or even their jobs at risk when illness strikes."

The Healthy Families Act (S.910) will provide all American workers who work an average of at least 20 hours per week or 1,000 hours per year, up to seven paid sick days that can be used for "an absence resulting from a physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition of the employee."

The legislation, which is being introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), also permits the use of the sick days for caring for a child, parent, spouse and -- get ready for anti-gay howling from the Religious Right on this one -- "any other individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship."

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