America’s midterm elections this month have made national news, mainly reporting on a slew of members of Congress and Senators who got replaced or reelected. For many though, the local issues on the ballots actually impact their daily lives more than the national issues.

One issue that was on the ballot in Oakland was paid sick leave from work. Oakland residents passed a ballot initiative called Proposition FF that allows workers to earn paid sick days, either five or nine, depending on the size of the employer. San Francisco already has such a policy. Currently, there are 56,000 private sector workers that will be covered by the policy who don’t get any paid sick days. The proposition also increased the city’s minimum wage to $12.25 an hour, which passed with more than an 80 percent margin.

The success of the proposition was in part due to local coalitions that gathered tens of thousands of signatures and knocked on thousands of doors. The Bay area showed strong support for the proposal throughout the electoral process. The University of California Berkeley has studied the issue and has found that the measure will put $120 million into workers’ pockets, will have no impact on employment, and will benefit the local economy. In addition to the paid sick leave laws in Oakland, two New Jersey cities and Massachusetts voted in similar laws. Oakland’s new law goes into effect on March 2, 2015 for existing employees.

Currently, besides the areas already mentioned, California, Connecticut, Washington, DC and 13 cities require many employers to provide some type of paid sick leave. California only requires that private employers get three days of paid sick leave per year. Federal law does not require that private employers give any paid sick leave. The U.S. is one of the only wealthy nations that does not guarantee workers any paid sick leave.

In general, it’s the lower-paying jobs with fewer benefits that do not offer workers any paid sick leave. Workers in those jobs are often reluctant to take unpaid time off for illness, since they may barely be making ends meet as it is. This can lead to those workers infecting other employees as well as the public, and becoming more ill.

As you may imagine, many employers are not excited about offering employees paid sick leave. Some claim that this policy leads to higher costs, which will cut into the bottom line and make it harder for them to hire more employees later on. Some employers may consider disregarding the law. In some professions, employers choose to pay their employees in cash, and attempt to get around many of the benefits that they are legally required to offer their employees. They may disregard overtime and minimum wage laws. They are probably not providing workers’ compensation insurance, or paying their employees’ contributions to Social Security, as required. Many offer their employees hazardous working conditions, and look the other way at harassment or discrimination in the workplace.

If you believe that your employer is violating your legal rights, it’s time to stand up for those rights. You should speak with an employment attorney as quickly as possible if your employer is refusing to pay you minimum wage or overtime, is allowing discrimination or harassment on the basis of age, sex, religion, national origin, disability, gender or ethnicity, is failing to pay you for your vacation pay or sick leave, or is creating a hostile work environment.

At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that employers should not be able to skirt employment laws and get away with it. Instead, they should be held responsible for their actions and should be forced to pay damages for their illegal actions. If you have been the victim of illegal employment actions by employers, call Micha Star Liberty, Oakland employment attorney, at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. She will provide you with a free consultation on your case.

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