An update on H1N1–the confirmed number of cases in Iowa is now 60, and perhaps growing.   That is up 17 cases since our last post on this subject two days ago.   In addition to the existing public health and employer challenges this disease presents, will a potential pandemic provide the impetus for Congress to mandate paid leave for employees? 

There are reports that Senator Edward Kennedy (D., Mass.) plans to reintroduce next month the "Healthy Families Act".  The bill would require employers with fifteen or more employees to provide at least seven paid sick days per year to full time employees.  According to The Des Moines Register, Iowa’s Senators and Representatives are divided on the proposed law, which was first introduced, but not enacted, in 2007.    Existing federal law requires private employers with 50 or more employees and all public employers to provide up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave because of a serious health condition of the employee or a close family member.   However, there is no law that requires paid time off because of illness.

Opponents of the law in Iowa’s delegation are concerned about the impact of another employer mandate on small business.   While no reasonable employer wants its employees to be harmed in the event of an illness, the law as it was proposed in the last Congress not only imposes the obligation of paid leave, but also provides that employees may enforce the act with a civil lawsuit. 

Interested parties should contact their Senator or Representative and let them know your views.