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Vermont Legislators Approve Bill Mandating Paid Sick Leave for All Full-Time Employees

All that’s required is a little tweaking and the “John Hancock” of Gov. Peter Shumlin, and Vermont’s mandatory paid sick leave bill will become a full-fledged law. According to the Burlington NBC affiliate WPTZ, the Vermont Senate passed their version of the bill on Wednesday. The state’s House of Representatives already passed their version of the bill last year.

“This is a big step forward for employees, employers, and all Vermonters,” Gov. Peter Shumlin said. “Most Vermonters agree that those who are sick shouldn’t be going to work and potentially infecting others. With 90% of food workers nationwide reporting that they go to work sick — and 65% of foodborne illnesses resulting from the handling of food by someone who is sick — this is as much a public health issue as it is one that reflects our values as Vermonters.”

Under the new bill, every full-time worker in the state of Vermont will be entitled to at least three days of paid sick leave from their employer during the first two years of employment. The number of allotted days will rise to five after that.

During Senate testimony hearings it was discovered that nearly 60,000 Vermonters do not get any paid sick days as it is right now. Many of these instances involve women in lower-paying jobs, such as the food service industry. Laura Tyrell would fall into that category.

“If I had a sign saying ‘Laura’s sick today,’ we would have lost a lot of business,” Laura Tyrell told a House committee in 2014. “But I had to be there to make money.”

Tyrell was one of the prime examples proponents of the bill used to argue their case. The incident she was referring to was when she went to her job as a Statehouse cafeteria worker. She made sandwiches knowing that she was sick, but because of her financial situation she didn’t really have any other options.

Between workers with personal illnesses and parents caring for sick children, who can catch between six and 10 colds a year on average, many saw the bill as a necessity.

However, there were those who opposed the new legislation.

“It increases the cost of doing business,” said National Federation of Independent Business spokesman Kris Jolin. “Small businesses can’t always absorb that hit.”

Yet despite the concerns of Jolin and those small businesses, the two similar versions now only needs to be consolidated by the House and Senate and sent to Shumlin to be signed into law. Federal employees, minors under 18, and temporary workers will not be covered.

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