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Sick leave law would kill Ohio

Published: Sun, August 10, 2008 @ 12:00 a.m.

Sick leave law would kill Ohio

The state of Ohio may be facing one of its biggest gambles ever, and it has nothing to do with the Lotto, Keno or casinos. It’s all about mandatory sick leave.

A coalition of unions, social service agencies and Democratic politicians calling itself Ohioans for Healthy Families appears to have collected enough signatures to put an issue on the November ballot that would require every company in the state with more than 25 employees to provide at least seven paid sick days for their employees.

If passed in November, the issue would make Ohio the only state in the Union with required sick leave. It’s difficult to imagine how loud the sucking sound will be as jobs leave the state.

This is a one-sided initiative that would not only mandate the accrual of sick leave time, it would require companies to provide the time in increments of as little as an hour anytime an employee said he or she was sick — or a dependent child, spouse or parent was sick. The employer could ask for a doctor’s excuse only if the employee took three consecutive days off. And while the law makes no mention of penalties for an employee who abuses sick leave, it has penalties for uncooperative employers and provisions that encourage legal action against companies.

Searching for compromise

Two Democrats who recognize how bad this law would be for the state are Gov. Ted Strickland and Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher. They are working on a compromise between the initiative’s backers, the business community and Republican legislative leaders.

But if a compromise is reached, it would be for the Legislature to enact a mandatory sick leave law. And while its provisions would not be as onerous as the November initiative, it would still make Ohio the only state with mandatory sick leave.

Thus, the gamble: enact a bad law that would put the state at a certain a disadvantage in the job market or risk passage of an awful law that would cripple the state’s ability to compete for jobs.

Initial polls show that most voters would vote for the initiative. But that’s based on their first impression of the proposal. We think if voters are given all the facts — acknowledging that it isn’t going to be easy to get the word out — Ohioans will see this as a bad law that would hurt the state.

Being first can be good or bad. Being the first state to tell companies that they must by law provide paid sick leave with virtually no questions asked would be terrible.

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