Paid Leave and Paid Sick Days

by Chris Saxman

In a recent column called Hitting the Cutoff Man, I explained the need to work with the business community if you want to solve problems in our economy. I used the famous “There’s no crying in baseball!” scene from A League of Their Own.

The lesson was, if you have a goal in mind, the business community can be a strong ally in getting done in policy and politics what you are trying to achieve. We are here, like the cutoff man in baseball, to relay the throw home.

The Richmond Times Dispatch recently published two editorials that deal with issues relating to employment policies in Virginia — paid sick days and paid leave — that are being considered in legislation currently before the Virginia General Assembly. While certainly well intended, both op-eds fail to make their point. In doing so, they will likely unite business leaders and various trade associations to oppose their objectives.

It doesn’t have to be this way if they would just hit the cutoff. Successful politicians learn that politics is not about what you want, but rather what you are willing to give up to get what you want.

Senator Jennifer Boysko and Delegate Hala Ayala submitted their op-ed titled, Small Business owners have spoken – Virginians need paid leave.

Interesting title to say the least. I talk to small business owners all the time and not once have any of them said, “You know what I really need? A state-run program for my employees to have up to three months off of work per year to care for themselves or a family member.”

So, naturally I read the op-ed to learn more about their idea. One sentence caught my attention quickly:

Paid leave is a business-boosting policy that the vast majority of small-business owners support. (emphasis added)

Wow. The vast majority support this? Surely there must be an accompanying poll or survey or study to support that claim, right?


The legislators write in the next sentence:

Recently, we participated in a roundtable discussion with small-business owners from across the commonwealth who made clear that this would be an affordable way to help them keep good employees, and compete with bigger companies as they rebuild and recover.

I sure hope they are not trying to claim that a roundtable, presumably on Zoom, constitutes a “vast majority.”

Trying to remain open minded to the policy proposal but dubious of the unsupported “vast majority” claim, I contacted Nicole Riley, Virginia State Director of NFIB, the largest small business organization in the Commonwealth, and she said her organization surveyed its membership in 2020 and 81% opposed the idea.

Ding ding ding. Vast majority! There it is.

Well, at least there is data set to consider anyway.

Riley also said she:

welcomes the opportunity to have meaningful discussions on the issue with anyone willing to listen.

Don’t have to read between the lines there. Hint — hit the cutoff!

Since Boysko’s bill SB1330 died in Senate Commerce and Labor with a 12-3 vote to kill the bill via Pass By Indefinitely motion (PBI) one can reasonably expect the same fate for Ayala’s should it make it that far.

Senate C&L has 15 members – twelve Democrats and three Republicans. Nine of her fellow Democrats voted to kill Boysko’s SB1330.

The other editorial is entitled, Let’s give Virginia’s essential workers paid sick days — for their benefit and ours, and is authored by Kim Bobo of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.

The introductory sentence is:

There are 193 countries in the world — 179 of them have policies allowing workers to take paid sick days off when they are ill. But not the U.S.

Bobo later writes:

15 states and dozens of U.S. cities and counties have adopted paid sick day standards.

So, the op-ed updates itself. SOME of the U.S. does have this policy on the books. #Federalism #Competition

Is this a bad time to mention how many countries every year see their people move to the U.S. in search of employment? Just Google it.

You can read HB2137 for yourself to see what it actually is trying to do. It was recently sent to House Appropriations for further consideration.

The op-ed continues:

Most legislators believe workers should have paid sick days, but many would prefer to have businesses adopt policies on their own. Unfortunately, a voluntary approach is not working, because 1.2 million workers in Virginia do not have any paid sick time or any paid time off.

Wow. 1.2 million? Where does that number come from you ask? Good question. The op-ed doesn’t say so I went to the coalition’s website. Wait, there’s a coalition? Yup – Virginians for Paid Sick Days.

Coalitions these days are a step above roundtables.

So, the website has the 1.2 million Virginia workers cited there?

Not that I could find. One would think that would be easily found since it is a main selling feature of the grievance being redressed.

Bobo claims that we need a “core standard on paid sick days.”

In our family-owned and -operated business that employed around 50 people, here was our “core standard” for paid sick days — we eliminated them.

And our employees LOVED IT.

Wait. You eliminated PAID SICK DAYS???


And the employees loved it?

Yup yup.

Explain that one please.

What we realized — about 25 years ago — was that employees would bank their so-called sick days for either Mondays or Fridays or shopping days around the holidays.

Right. A lot of folks do that.

But here was the problem — they would let us know that morning that they “were going to use a sick day.”

This was incredibly disruptive to our operations in production, distribution, sales and marketing, accounts receivables, accounts payables, and all other office functions.

It was maddening and unproductive. Heck, the employees weren’t even sick.

The policy was largely market-driven – after one year of work employees were eligible for two weeks vacation and five paid sick days. Standard stuff. During their first year, employees would accrue paid vacation days commensurate with that policy.

So, here was the solution that the employees loved.

We eliminated paid sick days.

We just gave them another week of paid vacation instead.

It was a win-win because they would schedule their time off which made our operations run much more smoothly.

Paid time off is paid time off. Whether you want a three-day weekend to go hunting or to the beach or work on the house didn’t matter to us at all. It was your paid time off, not ours. Just work with us to schedule it so the place runs smoothly, that’s all we asked.

If they didn’t use vacation days, they were paid for them. Simple.

We worked together to solve the problem.

In doing so, we created a culture of mutual trust and collaboration.

Back in the 90s.

It’s called Hitting the Cutoff.

Chris Saxman is executive director of Virginia FREE. This commentary is republished, with permission, from his substack account.