Raimondo pushes for earned sick time in RI

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Gina Raimondo is looking to introduce an earned sick time law in Rhode Island, and her office says she is using a Massachusetts law as a model.

“Our neighbors across most of New England and in states across the country – states run by Democrats and Republicans – have passed or introduced modern, common-sense paid sick leave laws,” the governor said in her State of the State address on Tuesday night. “Let’s do the same thing in Rhode Island.”

Earned sick time has been the law in Massachusetts since July 2015: for every 30 hours worked, employees gain one hour of sick time. That continues up until they’ve accrued 40 hours of sick time per year. Only companies with 11 or more employees must pay workers for their sick time, while smaller employers can provide it unpaid.

Greg Esmay, a Seekonk businessman, had a mixed opinion on the Massachusetts law. “I don’t know who we’re truly benefiting,” he said.

“I don’t want to discourage the people that honestly used it, but a lot of it appears to be people who just wanted a day off. Now they get it paid so they might as well take it,” he said.

As owner of The Wharf in Warren and The Old Grist Mill Tavern in Seekonk, Esmay said he was well-versed with the Massachusetts law. He estimated the added administrative cost and the cost to cover shifts at The Grist Mill was about $4,000 last year.

“By putting a sick leave in place, it’s the business that has to find a way to make this up,” Esmay said.

A New Bedford CEO had a different outlook, telling Call 12 for Action that paid sick time was a morale-booster because people felt they had a safety net.

Raimondo’s office noted that Connecticut and Vermont also have laws requiring sick time. The proposal was also one of four put forward by a group of Rhode Island House Democrats last week when they introduced their “Fair Shot Agenda.”