Sen. Franken discusses the importance of paid sick leave

What happens at work if you get sick or you have a family emergency? For employees with paid time off, it's no problem. But it's not an option for millions of American workers – and Sen. Al Franken is pushing to change that.

At Common Roots in south Minneapolis, Franken arrived hungry. But he wasn't sick, which is what owner Danny Schwartzman cares about – who provides his 30 employees with earned sick time.

"The first week they get five paid days, the second year they get a second week," Schwartzman said.

Jes Eiklenberg wasn't so lucky. The single mother was fired from a Stillwater restaurant after she called in sick on New Year's. She's one of the 43 million workers without paid sick leave.

"Everyone goes out to eat, who wants a sick person giving them their food or making their food?" Eiklenberg said.

Franken is one of the sponsors of the Healthy Families Act, that would force employers to offer a week of earned paid sick time, which employees can also use to care for sick family members.

"You get more loyal workforce less turnover," Franken said. "Which means less training, better service because they're happier."

Franken said employees who don't have sick time use the emergency room more, leading to a billion dollars in uncompensated medical care.

Schwartzman, who also pays his workers more than minimum wage, said he's seen the difference it can make to his bottom line.

The Healthy Families Act would allow workers to earn an hour of sick time for every 30 hours they work -- up to 56 hours. Businesses with fewer than 15 workers are exempt.

One study shows that not having paid sick time costs the country $160 billion dollars in lost productivity.

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