Local workers could be hurt by lack of paid sick leave during coronavirus outbreak

While some companies are offering paid sick leave, others are left to fend for themselves.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The coronavirus outbreak is forcing workplaces to deal with sick leave policies particularly if they have workers that have to self isolate and be off the job for weeks.

Multiple major companies are tweaking their sick-leave policies to help workers who may have to self isolate due to Coronavirus.

Walmart and Olive Garden’s parent company are two corporations that have made changes.

Walmart is offering two weeks of paid sick leave for employees who test positive for COVID-19.

Olive Garden’s parent company — Florida-based Darden Restaurants — is going to offer employees up to 40 hours of paid sick leave if they are an hourly employee.

But this could be a difficult problem, particularly for small businesses in Jacksonville and around the country.

News4Jax spoke with multiple workers who say they would simply not be paid if they had to stay home due to coronavirus.

“Thank God I got a wife and she got a job. Hope there ain’t nothing wrong with me so nothing wrong with her,” said Horace Holmes, who works at a local landscaping company.

A local worker’s rights attorney said there isn’t much legal protection for workers wanting paid sick leave.

“Sick leave is mostly governed by an employee’s handbook policies. So employees are encouraged to review those policies, speak with human resources about what paid leave is available to them,” said Tyler White who is an attorney at Jackson Lewis Law Firm.

He added he’s dealt with workers in court cases who said they will go to work even if they’re sick because they need a paycheck.

“That’s what I hear from plaintiffs who are complaining saying ‘I didn’t have a choice. I live paycheck-to-paycheck and I needed to go to work.’ And that’s certainly a concern in employer’s minds that employee would feel that way,” said White.

He said companies need to be more flexible with employees needing to be out if they get coronavirus.

The Federal Government is looking at some sort of financial package to help pay for sick leave. Vice President Mike Pence announced the government is looking at doing this, particularly for small businesses, but the details have yet to be released.

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