COVID-19 Protection for Working People

[ACTION ALERT: Click here to watch and read testimony about the urgent need for Emergency Paid Sick Time, submitted by workers, experts, activists, and leaders in the Raise Up MA coalition. Click here to contact the Commonwealth Resilience and Recovery Committee, which is now reviewing the legislation, and urge them to bring it to the floor for a vote.]

In order to ensure that all those who feel sick or may have been exposed to COVID-19 stay home and avoid exposing others to the virus, all workers must have the ability to miss work to care for themselves or their family, without losing the pay they need to make ends meet. In the face of the COVID-19 outbreak and the massive economic disruption it is creating, Massachusetts must urgently act to protect working people.

Low-wage workers are our first line of defense against COVID-19, but they are feeling the greatest economic impact of the outbreak. Healthcare and long-term care workers, janitorial workers, food service workers, child care workers, municipal workers, adjunct faculty, gig workers, and others on the front lines are critical to supporting our communities during the outbreak. Women, people of color, and immigrants are all overrepresented in frontline occupations and industries.

But many front-line workers are struggling economically and lack basic economic protections including adequate paid sick time. No worker should face a choice between going to work sick or losing the pay they desperately need to make ends meet. As Massachusetts develops a plan to begin to reopen the economy, it is essential that all workers have access to additional job-protected paid sick time.

In 2014, Raise Up Massachusetts led the campaign to create Massachusetts’ Earned Sick Time Law, but the 40 hours of sick time it provides workers each year doesn’t meet the scale of this major public health crisis. The federal government has provided additional paid sick time for many workers through the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), but it has big coverage gaps that leave millions of front-line workers without paid sick time, including workers at companies with more than 500 employees, and many employees of health care and residential facilities. The Center for American Progress estimates that at least 1.8 million workers in Massachusetts are not covered by the FFCRA’s paid sick time protections.

Massachusetts will not be able to safely reopen our economy if tens of thousands of workers feel the need to go to work even when they might be sick. To protect the public health of our communities, Massachusetts needs to pass Emergency Paid Sick Time legislation to ensure that all workers can take paid sick time during this crisis.

Our Emergency Paid Sick Time legislation filed by Representative Donato (H.4700) and Senator Lewis (S.2701), and co-sponsored by more than 100 members of the House and Senate, would provide ten additional work-days (80 hours) of job-protected paid sick time for immediate use during the COVID-19 outbreak. This Emergency Paid Sick Time would be available to employees not covered by the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)’s paid sick time provisions:
a) Employees working for a private employer with more than 500 employees; and
b) Employees working at health care or residential facilities that have the option to exempt themselves from the FFCRA.

Workers taking Emergency Paid Sick Time would be paid by their employers at their regular rate of pay, up to a maximum of $850/week. Employers would then be fully reimbursed by the state.

Emergency Paid Sick Time would be available, with no waiting period, for use:
a) For a worker to care for themselves if they are diagnosed with COVID-19, experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and awaiting a diagnosis, quarantined or self-quarantined, or reasonably believes their health is at risk; or
b) For a worker to take care of a family member, including a domestic partner or someone with whom the worker resides, who is diagnosed with COVID-19, experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and awaiting a diagnosis, quarantined or self-quarantined, or reasonably believes their health is at risk.