Family Values @ Work

Paid Sick Days Story Library Available for Media

July 10, 2011

Reporters looking to cover the 2011 National Summit on Paid Sick Days and Paid Family Leave, cosponsored by Family Values @ Work and the National Partnership for Women & Families, will want to check out the Paid Sick Days Story Library for highlights of stories from workers and business owners from around the country. Many of the people in the Story Library are in Washington, DC, for the Summit, July 11-12, and are available for interviews.

Please call Lynsey Kryzwick at 917-683-4474 to arrange interviews.

Caroline Topeé, Alameda
After being laid off from a child development center in July 2010 as a result of budget cuts, Caroline organized parents, teachers and other community members to fight against the closure. She soon found another job – but when her youngest child (age 7) was ill, she had a difficult time getting the time off from her employer to care for her.  Caroline was forced to leave her daughter at child care or school sick just so she could keep her job.  With the lack of time off and a pending relocation of her workplace far away from her home, Caroline had no choice but to quit her job to care for her child.

Donald Bentley, La Puente
Donald is a civil engineer and an AFSCME member. With the help of a full-time caregiver, he also provides round-the-clock care for his brother George who has Muscular Dystrophy and is a quadriplegic.  Donald has experienced penalties and discrimination at work because of his caregiving responsibilities which make it impossible for him to accept last-minute requests to work overtime. He has testified before the California legislature about the importance of recognizing caregiving by siblings and protecting caregivers from workplace discrimination.

Laura Baker, Denver
Laura is a barista at a popular national coffee chain where she does not have paid sick days. When she is ill, she has to make the hard choice between staying home without pay – and worrying about paying that month’s rent – and going to work sick. She has had to work next to a co-worker who came back to work, still contagious, with pink eye because he could not afford another unpaid day off to care for himself.
Brian Freeman, Denver
As the owner and president of Grower’s Organic, an organic produce distribution company, Brian realized that the stress created for an employee having to miss work to take care of a loved one hurts morale and workers’ ability to pursue their career. As a result, he decided all of his employees would receive a minimum of five paid sick days a year. He wanted to remove the concern that because someone misses a day of work, they would lose some of their income. He realizes that just because the income stops, doesn’t mean the bills stop coming in.

Paula Broderick, New Britain
Years ago, Paula was working in the HR department of a Connecticut hospital and living with an abusive boyfriend. When he started threatening her daughter, Paula knew she had to leave. The boyfriend saw Paula packing to leave and raped and beat her for three days. When Paula escaped, she sought refuge in a local safe house. With bruises around her neck and a ruptured ear drum, Paula called in sick to seek medical care and a restraining order. Because she didn’t have paid sick days, she lost income at a time when she desperately needed financial resources. By the end of the week, she had lost her job because of those missed days.

Tessa Marquis, Milford
Along with her husband Mike, Tessa runs the New Standard Institute, a small training and consulting firm that has worked with clients around the country. They have 5 – 10 employees at any given time, including entry-level, first-time job holders and experienced professionals. They provide paid sick days to all their employees because they have found that doing so is smart business. Forcing employees to come to work sick has costs – they aren’t very productive, risk making costly errors, and spreading their illness. While most employees never use all their paid sick time, allowing employees that peace of mind has helped their business develop a dedicated and productive staff.

Rev. Harriet Bradley, Atlanta
Rev. Bradley has known jobs with paid sick days and without. Currently she works as a home health care worker with no paid sick days or any other benefits. This agency has never said thank you or given any recognition for doing an excellent job. While Rev. Bradley is grateful for her religious faith, she says it would be nice to not have to trust the Lord in this area and have some benefits like paid sick days.

Tina Jackson, Chicago
As a home health care aide, Tina feels she is always on duty. When her son got sick with the flu, she had to stay home with him with no sick days or vacation days. When every penny goes toward paying housing and other bills, the loss of three days pay hit hard.

Melanie Collins, Falmouth
A registered nurse, Melanie runs a home-based day care center that employs between 1-4 staff. She supports a policy guaranteeing paid sick days as a way to level the playing field. Melanie is a leader with the Maine Small Business Coalition.

Nicole Brown, Fairfield
As a single mother, Nicole now has a job that provides paid sick days. However, just a few years ago she worked as a waitress and relied on every tip to support her family.  Many times she put on a smile and worked hard despite pounding headaches, an upset stomach or extreme fatigue.  The worst is when her son was sick, because she had no choice but to stay home and lose a full day’s pay.

Mary Tillman, Boston
Mary has worked as a personal care attendant for more than 24 years without a single paid sick day. Many times she’s had to go to work ill – including with pneumonia. As a grandmother who helping to raise her grandkids, Mary lives paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford to lose a day’s wage. She feels strongly about the need for paid sick days for the sake of the consumers as well as the workers.

Jean Pierce, Woodbridge
Jean’s youngest son was diagnosed with early stage rabdo myosarcoma.  Both she and husband worked full time. After one month of therapy, her son began suffering from effects of chemo, and he required constant care. Jean and her husband did not have paid leave available and were forced to make the difficult decision for Jean to leave her job to provide care for her son full-time. They made many sacrifices to do so. As a concerned parent and member of Health Professionals Allied Employees Union (HPAE,) Jean is a strong supporter of family leave insurance.

Amador Rivas, New York City
Amador Rivas is a member of Make the Road New York (MRNY) and an immigrant worker who lives in Manhattan. He has worked at several different restaurants where he did not have paid sick days and on numerous occasions has had to go to work sick because he could not afford to lose a day’s pay or take the risk of losing his job if he called in sick. As a member of MRNY’s workers committee, he has been actively involved in NYC’s Paid Sick Days campaign.

Barbara Brown, Mebane
Barbara works as a research assistant with one of the major universities in North Carolina, and receives paid sick leave and vacation leave. Sick leave allows her to take time off when her children are sick or have medical appointments. Just recently her son had a 24-hour stomach virus which she had to stay home for, and she emailed her office to let them know she had to be off for a sick day. Barbara thinks about the many people who do not have sick leave who may have children or elderly parents that they can’t attend to if they’re needed during the day. She thinks sick leave is very important for people, especially with the economic situation we’re in today.

Jim Houser, Portland
Jim owns Hawthorne Auto Clinic.  Retaining his best employees is as important to him as retaining his customers. That’s why his wage and benefit package includes paid sick days. Eight of his nine full-time employees have an average tenure there of more than 18 years. This is what allows them to compete with large employers. Jim is also the co-chair of the Main Street Alliance.

Dewetta Logan, Philadelphia
As the owner of Smart Beginnings Early Learning Center, Dewetta faces a number of challenges, but feels none affect the bottom line more than having a dedicated and loyal staff.  To ensure a quality staff, Dewetta provides her seven employees with five paid sick days each year. That means that when her staff is at work, they are focused 100 percent on the kids. Dewetta values her employees and in turn, they value working at Smart Beginnings.

Tiffany Lomax, Philadelphia
Office Manager Tiffany Lomax is a single mom who is thankful that she now has paid sick days to care for her 13 year old son, who suffers from severe asthma and allergies. Unfortunately, that was not always the case for Tiffany. Prior to her current job, despite her hard work, ambition, and experience, she was let go from a number of jobs after missing work to care for her son.

Makini Howell, Seattle
The daughter of entrepreneurs and owner of three restaurants and a commercial kitchen, Makini Howell employs 30 people. When one of her employees gets sick, she doesn’t want that person to worry about being able to afford to take a day off. The one cost Makini says she can’t afford is losing good employees. She believes investing in employees in investing in the most valuable asset a business has.  And she doesn’t want to serve you up H1N1 with your fries.

Torrie Moffett, Milwaukee
Torrie has a child with mental illness. When he was in kindergarten and first grade, behavior issues began. She lost four jobs in five years because she didn’t have paid sick leave, and the attendance rules were very strict. Despite taking notes from the school or doctor, she was punished because of strict attendance rules.
Lennise Vickers, Milwaukee
As the single mother of eight, Lennise has worked as a waitress and in other service jobs without paid sick days. For her, the lack of paid sick days has been a job killer. When she was temping at a large insurance company, she called in sick but came in anyway. Her supervisor told her, “If you’re sick again, I’m going to bring in someone else who doesn’t get sick.” On a number of occasions, in order to maintain her job and paycheck, she had to keep an older child home from school to care for a younger sibling.



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