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Franken announces Emergency Paid Leave Act due to H1N1 epidemic

U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) is an original co-sponsor of legislation authored by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) to guarantee up to seven days of paid sick leave for workers infected by the H1N1 virus.

"Minnesota families need to know they can do what's best to keep themselves and others healthy," said Sen. Franken.

The emergency legislation is intended to slow the spread of the disease by encouraging those who have flu-like symptoms to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) recommendations to stay home instead of coming to work, while making it easier for parents to care for sick children or deal with school closures.

The current lack of paid sick days presents a threat to the U.S. economy and to public health, particularly in the face of a pandemic illness such as H1N1 influenza. The CDC reports that an individual who comes to work with H1N1 influenza will transmit the illness to approximately 8 to 12 percent of the individual's coworkers. This workplace transmission presents a serious threat to business operations, as many businesses do not have contingency plans in place to address the possibility of mass absences due to the spread of a pandemic illness.

The legislation includes the following provisions:

• Workers will be granted up to seven job-protected paid sick days to use for leave due to their own flu-like symptoms, medical diagnosis or preventive care, to care   for a sick child, or to care for a child whose school or child care facility has been closed due to the spread of contagious illnesses, including H1N1.

• Discretion on the need for sick leave would be left to the employee, although medical certification could be required through regulation by the Department of Labor.

• The bill would sunset after two years.