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Bill would mandate paid leave for sick, endangered workers

Orlando Democrat Sen. Geraldine Thompson filed legislation Tuesday to require certain employers to provide paid leave for employees stricken with illness or facing threatening situations at home.

Thompson’s SB 294 would create the “Healthy Working Families Act” and dictate that certain regularly scheduled, nonindependent contractor workers are entitled to compensated time off if they are sick or affected by domestic abuse. The latter component is known as “safe leave.”

Under the bill’s provisions, employers with at least 10 employees must provide workers with at least one paid hour of sick or safe leave for every 30 hours each employee works effective Oct. 1, 2016. Employers with nine or fewer employees must provide an unpaid hour of leave at the same rate of accrual.

Employers would not be required to provide leave or workers in their first three months on the job, or to compensate departing workers for unused sick or safe leave hours.

Under Thompson’s proposal workers could use leave hours to seek treatment or preventive care for themselves or dependents; avoid threats of physical or sexual violence or stalking either at home or in the workplace; or dealing with practical or legal proceedings related to the above.

The bill also prohibits employers from forcing workers to disclose potentially traumatic details of their reasons for taking leave, though it does say employers may establish “reasonable procedures” for using and applying for leave.

Paid sick leave is a major political issue in the Orlando-area progressive community. Organizations such as Stephanie Porta‘s locally influential group Organize Now as well as left-leaning power players such as Scott and Susannah Randolph were influential in pushing Orlando U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson to carry the issue’s banner at the federal level.

Grayson routinely mentions paid sick leave – which passed in a 2012 countywide vote in Orange County – in speeches and campaign communications.

Thompson’s proposal will likely face long odds in the pro-business, Republican-dominated Legislature when it considers the bill during the 2016 annual lawmaking Session.

Written By

Ryan Ray covers politics and public policy in North Florida and across the state. He has also worked as a legislative researcher and political campaign staffer. He can be reached at

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