Florida blocks cities, counties from voting on sick pay laws

Posted at 3:20 PM, Jun 18, 2013

(CNN) – Florida’s governor has signed a law that says cities and counties cannot make businesses offer paid sick leave.

Supporters say the law will mean consistency for employers across the state. Opponents say it burdens the poor and working mothers who cannot afford to lose money to stay at home sick or who are taking care of someone who is ill.

Among the companies that had lobbied for the law are Walt Disney and Darden Restaurants, which operates Olive Garden and Red Lobster, CNN affiliate WESH reported.

Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, signed the bill into law Friday, saying it “fosters statewide uniformity, consistency and predictability in Florida’s employer-employee relationships.”

He said the law is business friendly and supports job creation.

The move came as Orange County, which includes Orlando, was considering letting voters decide on a sick pay measure.

The bill’s sponsor in the Florida Senate, David Simmons, told WESH that the law signals that cities and counties cannot “create their own patchwork of regulations” in regards to employee benefits.

Orlando-based Organize Now had petitioned Scott to veto the bill.

“The fight for earned sick time will continue,” it said on its Facebook page. “Floridians believe in earned sick time for hardworking families and we don’t give up when we believe in something. … and we won’t forget.”

The law takes effect on July 1.

San Francisco was the first city to mandate sick pay, with the measure passing in 2007. A survey by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research suggested that after four years, the law was “functioning well.”

The report said most businesses maintained profits and many supported the law.

Most employees didn’t max out their sick days, the survey found.

Other municipalities to pass similar laws include Milwaukee; Portland, Oregon; Seattle and Washington. Connecticut became the first state to pass statewide paid sick time laws in 2011.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently vetoed such legislation, but the City Council could override his decision.

There are no federal legal requirements for paid sick leave, according to the U.S. Department of Labor website.

Some companies are subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act, passed in 1993, which provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year “for certain medical situations for either the employee or a member of the employee’s immediate family.”

The FMLA was amended in 2008 to permit a “spouse, son, daughter, parent or next of kin” to take up to 26 weeks of leave to care for a member of the armed forces who is undergoing medical treatment, according to the Department of Labor website.