Via Time: Ideas | By Adam Cohen

Connecticut just became the first state in the nation to require employers to provide workers with paid sick days. The new law — which also allows paid leave for a sick child or spouse — is controversial. Opponents attack it as big government run amok and say it will kill jobs. But it is the right thing to do, both as a matter of humane treatment of workers and public health. And while the law doesn’t cover everyone, it’s a step in the right direction and other states should follow Connecticut’s lead.

Millions of Americans work at jobs that do not offer them a paid day off when they get sick. In the private sector, nearly 40% of workers do not have paid sick leave. Not surprisingly, low-income workers are worst off. Among the bottom 25% of wage earners — those making $10.50 or less an hour — just 33% can take a paid day off when they are ailing.

That means that millions of Americans often have to go to work sick or in pain — a phenomenon known as presenteeism — or they may not be able to help family members who face medical emergencies. If they have no choice but to miss work, they risk being fired.

Advocates for paid sick leave point to the case of Hilda Pizarro. Pizzaro says she was suspended from her job cleaning houses for Merry Maids — which does not offer paid sick days — because she had to take her 2-year-old son to the hospital for emergency asthma treatment. While she was on suspension, she says, she was terminated.

Supporters of paid sick leave also argue that everyone benefits when sick people do not show up for work. Requiring paid sick leave “is good public policy and specifically good public health,” Governor Dan Malloy said when he signed Connecticut’s law last July. “Why would you want to eat food from a sick restaurant cook? Or have your children taken care of by a sick day-care worker? The simple answer is — you wouldn’t.”

Read more from Time: Should Paid Sick Days Be Required by Law?

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