Stay Home if You’re Sick (Without Pay, of Course)

What could possibly go wrong?

In a posting titled “Free breadsticks during a coronavirus outbreak,” Judd Legum reports,

Before you drown your anxiety about the coronavirus in a bowl of Never Ending Pasta, consider this: in most states, the staff at Olive Garden does not receive paid sick leave. That means if anyone working at the restaurant feels sick, they could be forced to choose between staying home and paying their rent. 

The Olive Garden is one of the restaurant brands operated by Darden. The company employs about 170,000 hourly restaurant employees across 1779 restaurants in the United States, making it one of the largest full-service restaurant operators in the country. Except where required by law, Darden does not provide any of its restaurant employees with paid sick leave. Currently, just 11 states and DC — along with a handful of cities — require employers to provide paid sick leave. 

The Center for Disease Control’s coronavirus guidelines recommends employers “actively encourage sick employees to stay home” and “ensure that your sick leave policies are flexible.”

A manager at the Olive Garden in Falls Church, Virginia, told Popular Information that, despite the coronavirus outbreak, the company would not pay employees who call out sick for work. The manager instructed a server not to “engage in a conversation” with this reporter about Olive Garden’s policy. 

None of Darden’s media representatives responded to an email from Popular Information. But Darden employees around the country were willing to share their experiences. 

A server at the Indianapolis Yard House, another Darden restaurant chain, told Popular Information that restaurant staff “do not get paid sick leave” and get “written up” if they fail to call in sick at least two hours in advance. According to the Indianapolis-based server, since the coronavirus outbreak, the company sent out a message encouraging sick employees to stay home. But it has not offered to pay these employees for missing time. The server has observed many coworkers reporting to work sick because they could not afford to miss a shift. 

An Olive Garden server reports that, at a North Dakota location, employees are “not allowed to stay home sick” unless they can find someone to cover their shift or produce a doctor’s note. But many of the workers lack insurance to see a doctor. In December, the server says, several members of the staff worked with a persistent cough.  

This is more anecdotal than anything else and, certainly, Darden is hardly unique. The point isn’t so much to critique their business practices or those of other American restaurants; I simply don’t know enough about their margins to know whether they could sustain a more generous policy.

But I suspect that most of us whose jobs come with ample sick leave—I’ve not had a job as an adult where I couldn’t call in sick and have accumulated way more sick leave than I hope to ever use in my current job—don’t think about this issue enough when discussing the policy approaches to infectious disease. This would include most reporters and editors at major newspapers and magazines. And Members of Congress and their staffs.

At my workplace, and I suspect most of yours, we’re encouraging people who even think they may have the virus—or, hell, the flu—to stay home. Most of us get paid when we do—even if we have to “self-quarantine” for two or three weeks. But it’s quite possible that our contract custodial staff does not.

Now, as Legum points out, restaurants and other public-facing businesses may well be legally liable if their lack of sick leave leads to customers getting infected:

Darden’s refusal to pay its employees for sick leave saves the company a few dollars in the short-term but could backfire. The company’s own SEC filings cite “health concerns arising from food-related pandemics, outbreaks of flu viruses or other diseases” as a major risk factor for its business. 

[…]

The financial risk is not theoretical. The company was forced to pay out a substantial settlement in 2011 when a worker with Hepatitis A allegedly exposed thousands of customers. 

Legum contends, ” The company could certainly afford to provide its employees with paid sick leave. It already does so in 11 states and DC.” But it does that because local laws require them—and their competitors—to do so. That means they can all build that costs into their pricing.

On a broader level, we’re encouraging people not to travel. Not to go to restaurants and shopping malls. Or, for goodness sake, take cruises. Those are prudent measures. But who’s going to make up the salaries—or, pay the health insurance premiums—of the hourly workers impacted?

We’ll almost certainly wind up bailing out airlines, cruise ship companies, and other major companies who go bankrupt because of the pandemic. But, aside from offering extended unemployment benefits, we likely won’t do much for the workers at the bottom rungs of the ladder.

These may well be issues that we need to address at the national level rather than leaving up to the vagaries of states and localities.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, COVID-19, Economics and Business, Health
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    But it’s quite possible that our contract custodial staff does not.

    I can all but guarantee it.

    I talked to my NOLA son for a bit yestereve. He said he was fighting a sinus thing that had been going around work for the past few weeks. He works at a restaurant. No, there is no paid sick leave. Even if there was, as a tipped employee would it even begin to make up for his loss of wages?

    5
  2. An Interested Party says:

    These may well be issues that we need to address at the national level rather than leaving up to the vagaries of states and localities.

    Wow! You’ve come a long way from the GOP…

    12
  3. mattbernius says:

    There has been an ongoing debate about paid sick leave for all workers here in NY since Cuomo floated the idea earlier this year (pre Corona virus). At the time or local NPR station did an excellent call-in program on the topic with local small business owners (including service industry owners). All agreed it was a good idea in theory but the real question was who would pay for it.

    That show has been at the back of my mind a lot during the outbreak. I hope that the administration realized that this is a critical topic to many Americans and acts accordingly to address it.

    On a similar thread, the NYC schools and other districts are trying to remind open in part because of both a lack of childcare options for lower income people and because so many of thier students are food insecure.

    The virus is going to stress all of our safety nets in ways we have not seen in quite some time, if ever.

    4
  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @mattbernius:

    All agreed it was a good idea in theory but the real question was who would pay for it.

    No matter what change is being debated, whether it be an increase in the minimum wage or environmental regulation, safety procedures, they always ask this question and the answer is always the same: The customer.

    (yeah yeah, their bottom line will take a hit initially but after a period of adjustment during which things get priced in, the customer pays for it.)

    5
  5. steve says:

    Even temporary paid sick leave would be helpful and we should already have this in place. What I suspect we will get instead is some kind of tax cut. While this would be better than nothing it wont help those who are not getting paid. (I think that the GOP is firmly opposed to sick leave pay in general so they wont want to pass even a temporary sick leave policy. Happy to be proven wrong!)

    Steve

    2
  6. Scott says:

    San Antonio passed a city ordinance mandating paid sick leave. It is tied up in the courts and not yet implemented. Litigants claim that paid sick leave violated minimum wage laws. Not sure I see the logic which implies that all non cash benefits violate minimum wage laws. Regardless, it is being fought tooth and nail by the business community.

    I get 120 hours/year Paid Time Off. PTO is advertised as better because it allows the employee flexibility. Yes, it does. Butlet me just say that the incentive to go to work with mild colds and fever is high just to save your PTO for vacation and other personal days.

    5
  7. Barry says:

    “All agreed it was a good idea in theory but the real question was who would pay for it.”

    Again and Again and Again and Again and Again and Again I see this asked about any liberal proposal.

    Meanwhile, trillion dollar tax cuts and multi-trillion dollar loans and near-trillion dollar bank bailouts sail through at high speed with nary a question asked.

    17
  8. I have a family member who works a full-time, hourly job in a health-care related field and the lack of sick time is acute and the reality is: don’t work, don’t get paid. It can be quite stressful.

    Dealing with this issue would be better than a payroll tax cut, for example, as a policy response to this situation.

    20
  9. Stormy Dragon says:

    I think Popular Information just set a record for the most effective investigative journalism article ever:

    Beginning today, all of our hourly employees will receive permanent, paid sick leave benefits.— Olive Garden (@olivegarden) March 10, 2020

    13
  10. Kit says:

    The point isn’t so much to critique their business practices or those of other American restaurants; I simply don’t know enough about their margins to know whether they could sustain a more generous policy.

    It’s just classic economic theory that a business will be forced to lower margins in order to stay competitive. Paying for sick leave when the restaurant down the street doesn’t is a dicey proposition. Hiring illegal workers and so avoiding social charges just makes sense. In fact, the ideal is to push all costs over to society (externalized), while pocketing all revenue. Bonus points if you can receive benefits from the government when things go wrong (socialism for businesses). But hey, what could go wrong in such a perfect world? If there is ever a move make you pay for those externalized costs, talk loudly and passionately about how everyone’s freedom is a stake.

    Generally speaking, the rich won’t care about public goods when they can get by without. Why pay for roads when you can fly? Why pay for public schools when you can afford private ones? But public health… The poor dirty masses can get you killed!

    6
  11. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Dealing with this [unpaid sick leave] would be better than a payroll tax cut, for example, as a policy response to this situation.

    100%. Hopefully the administration realizes that as well.

    2
  12. Hal_10000 says:

    Darden announced yesterday they will now provide a permanent sick leave benefit to all employees.

    I’ve become more open to mandated sick leave. The world didn’t end when the Family and Medical Leave Act was passed. At full employment, I think we can afford to up benefits.

    8
  13. Mu Yixiao says:

    The point isn’t so much to critique their business practices or those of other American restaurants; I simply don’t know enough about their margins to know whether they could sustain a more generous policy.

    Most restaurants run on razor-thin margins and have to deal with employee turnover rates that might reach 90% per year. A large company like Darden can probably do it without hitting the bottom line too much, but I can guarantee it’s going to affect the individual restaurants.

    Restaurants rely heavily on students (high school bussers and college wait staff), and their priorities aren’t “I have work to do”. I worked F&B when I was in school, and I have family that owned a supper club. You always have to “over-staff” on the weekends, because it’s all but guaranteed that someone will be a no-show. If they know they can still get paid for not showing up? A lot of them are going to abuse it. And that’s going to impact service, hiring, and other issues.

    6
  14. grumpy realist says:

    Grabbed from the Chron:

    Greece’s powerful Orthodox Church has rejected calls to stop communion that has been identified a risk for spreading the coronavirus, Instead, priests have been instructed nationwide to pray against the spread of the disease.

    The Church of Greece’s governing body said Monday that the spoonful of wine inserted into believers’ mouths during communion “clearly cannot cause the spread of disease.”
    It called communion is an “act of love” that conquers fear in a statement.

    The statement says that the Church of Greece will print and distribute to its followers leaflets with precautions against the spread of the virus. It urged priests to conduct prayers during services on Sunday for the spread of the disease to stop.

    The statement added that the Church of Greece would continue celebrating communion, “in the certainty that we (thus) commune with life and immortality.”

    (What was that about stupidity again?)

    7
  15. Kathy says:

    As goes contagion through restaurants, I’d worry more about the kitchen staff.

    5
  16. @mattbernius:

    100%. Hopefully the administration realizes that as well.

    Indeed–but I won’t hold my breath.

    4
  17. Jen says:

    Of course there should be mandated paid sick leave. And the argument for federalizing this is that it would mean a level playing field–everyone would have to comply, so you wouldn’t have hourly employees in one state covered and the next state over not covered, setting up a discrepancy in competitive factors between businesses.

    These are absolutely the people most at risk–for getting illnesses (because they are public-facing, work physically taxing jobs, and probably have fairly high levels of stress and income insecurity), and for spreading them. I guess it’s good that we’re having this discussion, but it’s irritating that it takes a pandemic to make people realize this is a problem.

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  18. @Mu Yixiao:

    If they know they can still get paid for not showing up? A lot of them are going to abuse it. And that’s going to impact service, hiring, and other issues.

    Isn’t that the normal argument against social welfare policies? That someone who doesn’t “deserve” it will abuse it (see, e.g., food stamps).

    I understand the point and realize that there is a toll on individual businesses, but that likely argues for some sort of federal program to provide a humane policy (as well as to protect wider public health)–and not just now/because of Covid-19.

    12
  19. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    If they know they can still get paid for not showing up? A lot of them are going to abuse it. And that’s going to impact service, hiring, and other issues.

    There will always be someone who will abuse any benefit. That is not an argument for continuing with the current abusive practice of forcing people to work while ill/injured or go hungry/homeless.

    16
  20. Kathy says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I’ve read that in times of plague, like Justinian’s Plague and the Black Death, people would crowd into churches to pray for relief and protection from the epidemic(*). We can justify their actions, a little, because they had no germ theory of disease, and many wrong beliefs about nature and disease.

    Seeing something similar these days is just unbelievable.

    (*) I’m puzzled why an omniscient deity would require to be told anything, or why and all-loving one would require wheedling in order to help someone obviously in deep distress.

    4
  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: Or why an all powerful deity would be persuadable by anything other than an entertaining spectacle. After a while s/he’d have to get bored. Wait a minute….

    1
  22. grumpy realist says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I must admit that I fall into the “don’t pray, it just attracts their attention” camp when it comes to deities. I haven’t yet figured whether I play the role of walking entertainment piece or lab rat in their universe but in either case….letsnotmakeourselvesobvious….

    1
  23. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    But, aside from offering extended unemployment benefits, we likely won’t do much for the workers at the bottom rungs of the ladder.

    Sorry, but failure to report in violation of work rules (no matter how senseless or draconian they may be) constitutes termination for cause in most states–which, of course means that the employee doesn’t qualify for unemployment benefits in many states, extended or otherwise.

    Glad to hear that Darden has figured it out, though. That’s good enough news. And a couple hundred dollars a week sick pay is better than zero.

    2
  24. Kathy says:

    There are other policies that need to be rethought in an emergency.

    For instance, Heathrow airport is slot restricted, meaning you have to acquire slots somehow to operate there, and these are hard to come by. Some can be sold, and airlines have sold a single slot pair for as much as $75 million.

    What’s relevant now is that any slot pair not used for a percentage of the time can be repossessed by the airport. This makes sense in regular times, but not when airlines all over the world are reducing capacity and cancelling flights for weeks or months.

    So airlines are resorting to phantom flights. they load a plane with fuel and a flight crew, and fly the plane to a nearby city or even to another airport like Gatwick or Stansted. eventually they fly it back, thus utilizing the slot pair.

    This is wasteful of fuel and time, and pollutes the air unnecessarily. Obviously this policy ought to be suspended temporarily while the pandemic lasts.

    6
  25. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mu Yixiao:
    I’d be concerned about the business practices of any employer who regularly had to overstaff. I worked restaurants for a decade as waiter, headwaiter and manager, and never had to do that. A company with issues of 90% turnover and frequent no-shows has problems with management.

    That said, yes, margins in restaurants are tight because of price competition, because of lack of control over food costs, because of fixed costs (rent, utilities) and yes, because of labor costs. The single best way to keep labor costs down is to avoid turnover, and the way to do that is pretty simple: pay as well as you’re able and don’t be a dick to the help. Unhappy employees means unhappy customers. Unhappy employees also means you’re being robbed, because pissed-off cooks ‘lose’ boxes of steaks out the back door, and front of the house employees skim.

    Restaurants are a perilous business with a high failure rate. A lot of that is undercapitalization by independents – IOW optimistic amateur restaurateurs who opened with no cash in the bank. Then you have chains that over-expand or fail to adapt to changing tastes – Bennigan’s, Steak and Ale, Chi Chi’s, etc… But lousy management is a much bigger problem than labor costs. A well-run restaurant can pay its people a decent wage.

    17
  26. grumpy realist says:

    @Hal_10000: I bet someone with some brains asked their legal eagles how much Darden was opening itself to lawsuits if someone got sick with coronavirus at one of their restaurants and there was an easily-traced chain to one of their servers/cooks who turned out to have it and had come in even while sick because he/she couldn’t afford to take the time off/take the risk of getting fired.

    5
  27. An Interested Party says:

    I’ve become more open to mandated sick leave.

    How generous of you…

    1
  28. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @grumpy realist: Every time I go to church I wonder, “Is this the time he finally turns me into a pillar of salt?”

    2
  29. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Dealing with [unpaid sick leave] would be better than a payroll tax cut, for example, as a policy response to this situation.

    A really good twitter thread from an economist on why a temporary payroll tax suspension is a bad option:

    @JustinWolfers:

    A payroll tax cut is the politically most expedient way to shovel money to those who need it least.

    As @jasonfurman has noted, a 2% cut would yield $5,508 for a high-income couple, but $500 to a single parent getting by on $25k.

    Far better to mail out $2,000 checks to everyone.

    The other problem with the payroll tax cut?
    1. It’s slow. It only accrues as you accrue payroll earnings.
    2. It only goes to those on payrolls, missing the unemployed.

    A payroll tax cut is a bad answer to the question: How best to stimulate the economy?

    It’s a better response if you already know that the answer to every question is “cut taxes,” and you didn’t really listen to the question.

    read the rest at: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1237391758784229377.html

  30. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Isn’t that the normal argument against social welfare policies? That someone who doesn’t “deserve” it will abuse it (see, e.g., food stamps).

    My point was primarily talking about the kids. Adults in the restaurant business aren’t an issue. Cooks, bartenders, and the few adult wait staff wouldn’t abuse it. Young wait staff, bussers, and dishwashers would– and they’re the ones who need it the least.

  31. Mu Yixiao says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    There will always be someone who will abuse any benefit. That is not an argument for continuing with the current abusive practice of forcing people to work while ill/injured or go hungry/homeless.

    I’m not arguing for continuing it. I was replying to the question about impact on the restaurant (specifically the thin margins). Restaurants aren’t like an office or a factory where all you’ve got are responsible adults. Restaurants rely heavily on young people–for many of whom this is their first job, and they haven’t learned the responsibility that goes along with it. It’s a special case in the job market (in so many ways) and that needs to be taken into account when talking specifically about restaurants.

    1
  32. R.Dave says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Dealing with this issue [of unpaid sick leave] would be better than a payroll tax cut, for example, as a policy response to this situation.

    Better as a means of slowing the spread of the epidemic, absolutely. Better as a short-term boost to the economy to counter recessionary pressures, probably not (though as noted by others up-thread, a payroll tax cut isn’t a great fiscal stimulus). Better as a long-term policy for balancing quality of life and economic freedom factors, depends entirely on one’s political values of course.

    I suppose one sort of halfway measure would be to give Governors and/or the President the power to issue a temporary order requiring paid leave during a declared public health/safety emergency (if they don’t already have the power). Presumably, the business insurance market would eventually develop a product to cover the risk of such an order being issued.

    2
  33. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Scott:

    Not sure I see the logic which implies that all non cash benefits violate minimum wage laws.

    I see it just fine. Who wants to provide their minimum wage workers with sick leave, health insurance, time loss benefits, pension, dental, family/maternity leave, whatever? Now, which sounds better.

    I’m not providing those benefits and you can’t make me!

    OR

    I’d really love to be permitted to provide all of those things and they’d certainly be worth any sacrifice to me personally, but the law just doesn’t allow it. 🙁

    1
  34. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mu Yixiao: I worked in restaurants back in a different life. Worked my ass off. My son does. So does my brother. Restaurants can really suck. Or not. I refer you to @Michael Reynolds: comment. I don’t buy those excuses any more than I buy the “we need immigrants to build our homes because Americans won’t work hard anymore” bullshit. Pay people well, treat them right, and you’d be surprised how the quality of employee improves.

    8
  35. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @mattbernius:

    A payroll tax cut is the politically most expedient way to shovel money to those who need it least.

    Wait a second… Isn’t that what tax cuts are about to begin with? Tax cuts are supposed to be about something else?

    2
  36. KM says:

    @Mu Yixiao:
    I agree with the others. I spent 13 years in food service as I worked my degrees as well as spending some time working in group homes. There’s always going to be that one worker (plural if you’re in a really bad place) that you *know* is going to skeeve off the second they get a chance. You know they’re at a concert or hungover when they call in “sick” or just not show up at all. They never pick up when you call around looking for someone to pick up a shift and are the first to bail if given a chance. You see their names on the schedule and groan since you *know* it’s a going to be a terrible shift and your workload just went up.

    These people? Are bad workers. They’re going to be bad workers with benefits or not. If you keep hiring these kinds of people or let them stay employed long after they keep pulling this crap, that’s on you as a business. It’s a certainty you are going to hire a few lemons but to have a entire roster full of them? You’re terrible at business since like tends to hire like. If you keep hiring people who can’t be bothered to show up for work, then you got bigger problems then worrying about folks abusing sick time.

    13
  37. Kathy says:

    While “who will pay for it?” is a valid question, one just as valid is “how much does it cost you not to pay for it?”

    This is a harder question to answer, of course, but it’s worth considering. How does it affect turnover not to pay for sick leave? How does turnover impact your business? Other cases raise different questions.

    Sometimes not paying benefits can cost more than paying them, even if the latter are harder to detect. Often this is not seen until such payments begin.

    2
  38. Mister Bluster says:

    @Kathy:..why an omniscient deity would require

    As I have said before to those who have suggested that I solicit the almighty for blessings,
    I do not presume to tell god what to do.

  39. James Joyner says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Wow! You’ve come a long way from the GOP

    While I think states and localities are better at some things–serving as “laboratories of democracy” and serving different cultural norms—I’ve been skeptical of differing regulations for a lot of issues for as long as I can remember. Maybe because I’ve moved so much but it’s never made sense to me that, for example, to regulate drivers’ licensing and the rules of the road at the local level.

    I’m agnostic on whether the feds should have minimum wage laws and the like. But there’s utility in having standardized rules given how many industries are national and even global in scope.

    3
  40. Nightcrawler says:

    I suspect that most of us whose jobs come with ample sick leave—I’ve not had a job as an adult where I couldn’t call in sick and have accumulated way more sick leave than I hope to ever use in my current job—don’t think about this issue enough when discussing the policy approaches to infectious disease.

    I suppose that’s why I’ve thought about this many times. I’ve never had a job in my life that came with “ample” sick leave. At best, back when I was working for a dot-bomb during the bubble, I got a few days.

    I’ve spent the better part of the last 14 years working for myself — which means I don’t get any benefits. No sick time, no vacation pay, no unemployment insurance, absolutely nothing. I eat what I kill.

    Heck, I had a hysterectomy, after which I had a horrible reaction to the anesthetic and couldn’t stop throwing up. I was back at work within a week. No, I wasn’t better. I was in a lot of pain, but I desperately needed the money, so I sucked down medical weed and went to work.

    Thankfully, I do white-collar consulting work for infosec and cloud firms. I work entirely from home, so it doesn’t matter if I stagger over to my computer sick. Nobody else is going to suffer for it.

    The point isn’t so much to critique their business practices or those of other American restaurants; I simply don’t know enough about their margins to know whether they could sustain a more generous policy.

    I agree that bashing the restaurants over this is pointless. They probably cannot afford it. However, having sick people handle food presents serious public health issues. It always has, but until recent days, most people could pooh-pooh it. Sure, there have always been cases of food-borne illnesses, some serious, but rarely did these illnesses reach numbers where they could be traced back to a particular restaurant, let alone a server.

    5
  41. steve says:

    Via Cowen, these is a study looking at the effects of sick pay. It isn’t a real big deal.

    https://www.nber.org/papers/w26832

  42. KM says:

    @Kathy:
    No one’s saying it’s not a valid question. We’re saying it’s only seems to be worth asking when it’s a liberal idea or something that benefits the poor. Much like how Repubs only care about the deficit when it’s not their guy in office, the question gets used to undercut ideas and poison people against them under the guise of being “rational”. It’s never asked in good faith and should be treated like the snarky commentary it’s meant to be.

    I want to hear a conservative ask Trump how he plans to pay for his pitiful attempts at economic juicing since COVID-19 showed up. Funny how Trump trying to save Wall St isn’t immediately greeted with “who will pay for it?” but asking for sick time for all gets us the Frowny Faces of Economics.

    9
  43. Kari Q says:

    My husband works for a software company in San Francisco. They went from ignoring COVID-19 entirely, to saying “you can work from home if you want, but you’re not at much risk,” to saying “everyone work from home! Especially if you take public tansportation!” in about two weeks.

    We feel fortunate that we have jobs that can be done from home. I really for people who can’t do that, especially if they have no sick leave. It’s like they are on the front lines.

    1
  44. Kathy says:

    @KM:

    I meant it in general terms. It’s not always clear what the costs of a new policy or regulation will be, but it’s clear there will be some costs. Often the question of the costs inherent in letting things go as they are, tend not even to rate a mention.

    I’m fond of saying there’s a downside to everything. This means that in the end, all policies, regulations, etc. are a trade-off, or series of trade-offs, between cost and benefit, hopefully with a net positive overall result.

    1
  45. Tyrell says:

    @steve: This could be a problem for small businesses, many of which operate on a razor thin profit. The government should help them out on this.
    I was fortunate that I had a good sick leave benefit, one that allowed me to accumulate the sick days I did not use. That amounted to almost two years worth that I applied to retirement.
    The weather here is getting better and now everyone can get outdoors: fresh air, and a big dose of vitamin D from the sunshine.

  46. DrDaveT says:

    @steve: Great reference, Steve. Thanks.

    1
  47. Gustopher says:

    @Tyrell: Two years is 500 working days. Let’s say almost three years is 400 working days.

    10 sick days is really generous. 40 years at the same job?

    1
  48. Kathy says:

    As of today, Mexico has reported 7 cases, no deaths as yet.

    This sounds good, but apparently not much in the way of testing has been carried out. I hope they’ve tested the people who were in contact with the known cases.

    So maybe it’s a good thing hand sanitizer and surgical masks have flow off the shelves.

  49. Mikey says:

    @Gustopher: Sounds like Tyrell may have been a government employee at some level. The federal government and many state governments allow retiring employees to apply unused sick leave hours as time in service toward retirement.

    2
  50. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: Not that hard for me to imagine if Tyrell was a blue collar laborer. When I worked in warehousing, I started at 18 years old. Had the company not been put at risk by some worthless greenmailing cousins of a former GOP candidate for President, I might have stayed to max out my pension. I would have been 48 when I quit in that case after 30 years of pension contributions.

    Alas, that’s not how things worked.

  51. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: However, I have to note that after 2o days accumulated sick leave you lost 5 days for every 5 days you accumulated the following year. Some guys could be counted on to be sick 5 random days. If you needed more than 20 days of sick leave, our contract had an additional 30 days (IIRC) of what was called time loss leave for when your sick leave ran out for employees who had 5 or more years with the company. That leave was a fixed number of days.

    The Teamsters always stole more for me than they did from me. If they were mobbed up (and some said they were even in Seattle), it was a well run mob operation. Those were the days…

  52. Mister Bluster says:

    @Mikey:..federal government and many state governments allow retiring employees to apply unused sick leave hours as time in service toward retirement.

    My sister just retired from her nursing job at Missouri University Hospital in Columbia after 27 (?) years and was able to do just that. She didn’t know about it till about 6 months before her retirement so it was a pleasant surprise.

  53. Tyrell says:

    @Gustopher: 20 days per year. State job. Pay was not great but benefits were.

  54. grumpy realist says:

    @Gustopher: My previous law firm finally went to PTOs which could be taken for either sick days or vacation. The last year I worked there I had inched my way up to 25 days (having worked more than 10 years). At which point they promptly got rid of my position, humph. (Internal coup d’etat from what I could gather and the side that won was scrounging around for spare cash….)

  55. Jen says:

    @grumpy realist: Although I understand the logic behind PTO, I’ve never really been a fan. What I found was that people tended to want to use those days for vacation only–in fact, they’d count on it. So when they did get sick they’d come into work ill, rather than using PTO for sick time.

  56. KM says:

    @Jen:
    Which would go back to @Mu Yixiao’s OP point – potential for abuse. I would think the solution would be for there to be some sort of official warning and ejection from the building given if you come in visibly ill and have time available to take off. It’s one thing to come into work because you can’t afford not to and don’t get time off; it’s quite another to deliberately infect people because you want to go to a concert next month and don’t want to waste your PTO. Responsibility goes both ways – we can’t ask for paid time off for being sick as workers and then not use it as intended to get another day off to play.

    As long as you have enough PTO for the year to be reasonably sick, be able to go to the doctors as needed AND take some time for yourself (aka more then a measly week or so) then it’s understandable to hold people’s feet to the fire and tell them “GTFO you’re sick, this counts as a sick day so you wasted your time coming in trying to be clever”.

  57. DrDaveT says:

    @Jen:

    Although I understand the logic behind PTO, I’ve never really been a fan.

    The logic is financial — it’s cheaper for the employer, and they pocket the difference.

    When my company converted from ad hoc sick leave (no set limit, but if you were sick too long they’d switch you to short-term disability) to PTO, I had been with the company for about 12 years. I started at a zero balance for PTO like everyone else, despite the fact that I would have accumulated a substantial account by then if we’d had PTO all along*. My annual PTO days is only 4 more than my previous annual personal leave, so in effect I’m either getting only 4 sick days per year, or some of my personal days have been cannibalized to become sick leave.

    *The HR people looked at me like I had 3 heads when I asked how initial leave balances would be determined. It had never occurred to them that any number other than zero was possible.

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  58. An Interested Party says:

    Maybe because I’ve moved so much but it’s never made sense to me that, for example, to regulate drivers’ licensing and the rules of the road at the local level.

    I’m agnostic on whether the feds should have minimum wage laws and the like. But there’s utility in having standardized rules given how many industries are national and even global in scope.

    So, in other words, you are a thinking conservative…I can appreciate that, and it obvious why you don’t support Trump, unlike other conservatives…