8.22.2008

Mission: Take Down the Ohio Healthy Families Act

I know my mission is impossible to accomplish on my own, but I have one key goal from now until the November election - do everything in my own power to get people educated and informed on the Ohio Healthy Families Act that is likely to be on the ballot so it's voted DOWN.

First of all, I'm not against people being "healthy." In fact, I'm all for it, especially since I have a huge lack of health myself. I do, however, have a problem with this new potential mandate that could take effect in Ohio this December.

This Act would mandate that all employers with 25 employees or more provide a minimum of 7 paid sick days per year. Here's what else it requires:

  • The new policy must take effect within 30 days after it is approved by the voters
  • Employees must be allowed to take off sick time in hour increments or smaller, whatever their payroll system allows
  • Employees may not be asked to provide proof of being sick unless they are out three full consecutive days
  • Employers are not allowed to reduce vacation, personal or holiday time once the bill is enacted, which would probably be in an effort to make up for the increased amount of sick days and the additional financial burden it could put on the company
  • A minimum of up to 7 days of sick time must be allowed to carry over into the next business year
  • Part-time employees must receive prorated sick time based on the average hours worked per week
  • Employers are not allowed to factor in any sick time taken in their attendance policy, nor can employers include it as a factor on any type of "employee review"
  • Employees can take sick time not only for themselves, but to care for any type of family member.
The proposed Act is so poorly written that it does not address PTO time, whether sick time has to be "paid out" if an employee quits or is terminated, etc. It gives the employer no ground to stand on when it comes to employee "sick" time; the employee is in complete control.

Here is my issue. Ohio is already considered a horrible state to have a business in. Businesses are failing left and right, the unemployment rate is high (especially in Cleveland), and pretty much everyone is suffering in some way. The state is a mess. Companies are leaving the state, and people have few employment opportunities. So, this group - Ohioans for Healthy Families - decides that the best way to become an "employer friendly" state is to force 7 days of paid sick leave, giving the employee all of the power and the employer absolutely none. Seriously, they think this is going to entice companies to come here, or so they say. The main backers, from what I can tell, are unions and the Democrat party, though the Governor is saying he is against the Act.

This group's argument is that dozens and dozens of Ohioans have lost or almost lost their jobs because they had to take time off to care for themselves or a loved one. Yes - dozens, according to their spokesperson. They quote statistics such as "Only 52% of Ohioans have paid sick leave." Um...are they counting PTO time? No, just sick leave. It's all about wording. Every statistic they quote is craftily worded, and more than half of them are regarding other states or regions/cities. They talk about how people are finding it difficult to take off work. Sure, I relate to that. It's tough to take time off with my responsibilities, but it in no way has to do with a lack of paid sick time. That's what happens when you are a working adult - you have responsibilities and choices.

I'm going to use my own company as an example. We offer employees up to 30 days of sick leave. Yes, 30 paid days. If someone is sick less than 4 hours, we don't count it as sick time. When we do employee reviews we mark someone down in the attendance category if they are out more than the company sick day average (4 days), unless there were special circumstances. It rarely impacts the employee's increase. When we think people are abusing the system, such as constantly taking 2-3 hours off several days a week for claimed doctor's visits, we ask for a doctor's note. After all, we are a service business, and if someone is unreliable and constantly taking off and calling in late due to sick-related excuses, it hurts the department and the company.

If this new Act passes, we are forced to change our whole system. Why? Because now we offer up to thirty days, but with this new Act it MANDATES that employees have seven full sick days to use however they wish. Sure, the seven days are to be used for sick time, but when an employer can't do anything to control the usage, those seven days become additional vacation time for those who typically have minimal sick time. Remember, our average employee takes only 4 days of paid sick time per year, not seven.

And it is not just our company who is looking at having to reduce their sick leave policies. I've spoken with a lot of companies who are very generous and flexible on their sick time, who are also looking at having to reduce their vacation and holiday time off prior to the Act passing/being enacted so the financial hit is minimized. Remember, 30 days after the Act is voted for the company is stuck with whatever policy they have for all time off at that point. Days off could be increased, but not decreased.

I hate to say this, but most Ohioans do not actively follow what is going on in their city, region, county or state. It is completely different from living in Minnesota, when the media outlets did a great job of educating people, and it was easy to gain additional information. I always felt like I knew what was going on. In Ohio, I feel like most issues are worked out behind closed doors. No one knows what is going on, and there is a huge lack of places to find this information out. It is a very shady system, and the people allow it to happen.

What will likely happen in November is that people will go to the polls and see this Act on the ballot. Most people will have no clue about the details Ohio Healthy Families Act, but when they have the option to vote whether employees should get seven paid sick days a year, the majority will vote yes. Unfortunately those individuals will have no clue what other stipulations come with that "Yes" vote. They won't think about the financial implications it will have on companies and job opportunities. They will vote it in, and Ohio will just sink further. It's another reason B and I are looking to leave here as soon as it's feasible.

So, from now until election day, I will do my best to inform people of the initiative, contact government representatives, do what I can to protect my company and the employees, and hope that in the end the people of Ohio will vote this thing down. If you are reading this and live in Ohio, I encourage you to do your research on this issue before you vote. Nothing in this world is free - everything comes with a price.

1 comment:

Sabine said...

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