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  • ACOEM Supports Healthy Families Act – Legislation Would Require Paid Sick Leave

    December 4, 2009

    The Honorable Tom Harkin
    Chair
    Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions
    United States Senate
    Washington, DC 20510

    Dear Chairman Harkin:

    The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) is pleased to offer our support for the Healthy Families Act, S 1152. This legislation will allow millions of working Americans to earn up to 56 hours per year of paid sick leave to care for themselves, a child or other family member when illness strikes. The Healthy Families Act will ensure that workers can address their own health needs and the health needs of their family.

    An individual should not have to make untenable choices between needed income on the one hand and caring for their own or a family member’s illness on the other. This is not just a matter of basic fairness, but has significant public health implications, as well. Workers with contagious diseases should not be in the workplace spreading infectious diseases to colleagues, clients, patients or the public. Yet, if staying home or seeking medical attention means lost wages, many workers will forge ahead to the detriment of everyone.

    It is worth noting that of the twenty-two industrial economies, the United States is the only country that does not require employers to provide a basic level of paid sick leave. This is a distinction we would be better off without.

    Occupational physicians are often directly involved with administering the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and have first-hand experience with the significant operational and administrative challenges presented by the FMLA. These very same challenges will occur with the Healthy Families Act, unless addressed during consideration of this legislation. These include permitting the employer to request an occupational physician to review the appropriateness of a leave request and the certification of the request; scheduling and use of intermittent leave; and certification of a serious health condition.

    ACOEM looks forward to working with the sponsors and the committees to address these issues during consideration of this legislation. If we can provide any additional information, please contact Patrick O’Connor, ACOEM’s Director of Government Affairs. He can be reached at 202-223-6222, or by e-mail at patoconnor@kentoconnor.com.

    Sincerely,

    Eisenberg - new 
    Barry Eisenberg
    Executive Director