Ill-Informed: Fox Pundits Mislead On Beneficial Paid Sick Days Laws

Fox's Alisyn Camerota and Charles Payne attacked paid sick day laws as job-killing “entitlements” but ignored studies indicating such laws protect vulnerable workers while having little or no negative impact on businesses.

On the March 29 broadcast of America's Newsroom, the two criticized a paid sick leave law poised to pass New York's City Council. The law would require companies with at least 15 employees to give full-time and some part-time workers five paid sick days per year, which advocates say would provide paid sick days for one million New Yorkers who don't currently have them.

Camerota opened the segment by saying the law means that “business owners are taking it on the chin here in New York City,” and later hyped Mayor Michael Bloomberg's concerns that the law “could crush New York's fragile economy right now.” Payne agreed and said Bloomberg is “absolutely right,” adding, “We're talking about very thin [profit] margins, and if you have this many sick days and people simply take them, when things get tough, there won't be jobs for those same people. ... The smaller businesses cannot afford it.” 

Camerota noted that paid sick day laws are becoming a trend nationwide, but failed to inform her viewers that in at least one city, the law has been a success. A paid sick leave law passed in San Francisco has benefited workers and has not harmed businesses there. 

The National Partnership for Women & Families, which leads a national paid sick days campaign, noted in a fact sheet that since taking effect in 2007, San Francisco's law, which also lets workers to earn up to five paid sick days annually, “job growth has been consistently higher in San Francisco than in neighboring counties that lack a paid sick days law,” as has the “overall number of businesses.”

And a study conducted by the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) found that "[e]mployer profitability did not suffer" as a result of San Francisco's law. The report noted that "[s]ix out of seven employers did not report any negative effect on profitability as a result" of the law, and further found that "[t]wo-thirds of employers support the [law]."

The National Partnership for Women & Families notes on another fact sheet that paid sick laws can actually help businesses by reducing turnover and increasing worker productivity -- the fact sheet states that employees coming to work sick costs the national economy $160 billion annually “in lost productivity.”

Workers, of course, also reported benefiting from San Francisco's law. As the IWPR study noted, “More than half of San Francisco employees reported benefitting” from the law and "[p]arents with paid sick days were more than 20 percent less likely to send a child with a contagious disease to school than parents who did not have paid sick days."

During the Fox segment, Payne also implied that workers will abuse the law, saying that in his own small business, “90 percent of my employees take every sick day, even when they're not sick.”

But the National Partnership for Women & Families noted on another fact sheet that workers with paid sick days “only take one additional day off per year on average than workers without paid sick days.”

Few workers are abusing San Francisco's law. IWPR found that "[e]vidence suggests that it is rare for employees to misuse paid sick days," adding, "[d]espite the availability of either five or nine sick days under [San Francisco's law], the typical worker with access used only three paid sick days during the previous year, and one-quarter of employees with access used zero paid sick days."