March 4 2016 08:07 AM

Paid sick leave approved for part-time Ingham County workers

FRIDAY, March 4 — Earlier this month, Chipotle, the national Mexican grill chain with an East Lansing location, shut down operations in order to teach employees about preventing food borne illnesses. The move came after the chain was linked to a nationwide E. Coli bacteria outbreak, then linked to norovirus outbreaks. Both food-borne illnesses causes stomach issues including vomiting and diarrhea.

That incident is evidence of the need for paid sick leave for part-time and seasonal policies, say advocates.

Now Ingham County has become the first government in the state to adopt a policy to provide earned paid sick time for its 252 part-time and seasonal employees.

“This is the right thing to do,” said Rebecca Bahar-Cook, D-Lansing, the county commissioner who pushed the policy through the Board of Commissioners for unanimous approval last week. “I don’t think anyone should fear losing their job over taking care of themselves or someone else.”

The new policy provides part-time and seasonal employees with one hour of paid sick time for every week worked, up to 26 hours. That leave can be used for medical needs for them or their family and also to deal with sexual or domestic violence matters. Sick leave will be at the same hourly rate as the employee earns.

Bahar-Cook said if all eligible employees took all 26 hours, it would cost the county less than $20,000 annually.

She said she was inspired to push the policy by David Woodward, a former state lawmaker and current Oakland County commissioner. Woodward is involved in the Michigan Time to Care Coalition, which is working to put a question approving paid sick leave on the ballot statewide.

He said 1.6 million Michigan residents are part-time workers. “They disproportionately women and disproportionately people of color,” he said. “They are the frontlines of the economy and the least able to afford losing pay.”

Woodward said Oakland County is considering a similar policy. It would include maternal leave.

The Ingham County policy went into effect immediately, Bahar-Cook said. It exempts departments overseen by elected officials, who could choose to implement the change. Two of them, Treasurer Eric Schertzing and Clerk Barb Byrum, said they plan to adopt the new policy. That leaves the Sheriff’s Department and the offices of the register of deeds and the drain commissioner, who were unavailable for comment.