Paid sick leave measure narrowly clears Labor Committee

Legislation requiring most Connecticut employers to provide paid sick leave narrowly cleared its first hurdle Thursday when the Labor and Public Employees approved it by a 6-5 vote.

The Democrat-controlled panel adopted the bill over Republican objections in a vote largely along party lines. The only defection involved Rep. Ernest Hewett, D-New London, who backed a similar bill last year but voted in opposition Thursday.

The measure technically heads now to the Senate, but is likely to be referred back to both the Appropriations and Judiciary committees, as similar measures were in recent years.

Both advocates and opponents said afterward the narrow margin was anticipated.

“It was an important first step for a very reasonable, common sense public health reform,” said Connecticut Working Families Party director Jon Green, who added that despite the close margin, his group believes there are sufficient votes ultimately to send the measure to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s desk.

Similarly, a spokeswoman for state’s chief business lobby wasn’t surprised by the outcome, though she added the effort to block the legislation is far from over. 

“We simply can’t afford to have costly, new – and in this case, unique – mandates placed on Connecticut employers,” Connecticut Business and Industry Association assistant counsel Kia Murrell said. Even the prospect of Connecticut becoming the first state in the nation to mandate paid sick leave is weakening the business climate, Murrell said, adding “it is, simply put, scary to those looking to come here.”

Nicole Griffin, executive director of the 600-member Connecticut Restaurant Association, added the bill would be particularly “devastating” to her clients. Many small businesses can’t afford not to cover for a cook or server who calls in sick, but still would have to provide paid leave. “They effectively would have to double-pay,” she said.