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Published: Thursday, 6/19/2008

Local firms voice fear on sick-leave act

Dixon Dixon

The potential for the Ohio Healthy Families Act to become law next year has many area employers worried that businesses will be crippled and workers will be hurt.

The act would require employers with more than 25 employees to give full-time workers seven paid sick days a year and to allow part-time workers to earn sick days on a pro-rated basis.

It is being pushed by a union group and others who are gathering signatures to get the issue on the November general election ballot. Local experts predict they will succeed.

Proponents of the proposal praise it for giving Ohio workers proper time off to address health issues. Critics say it unfairly burdens small businesses.

Said Joan Pisanti, a spokesman for the Employers' Association of Toledo, "It looks good for employees on paper, but you might not have a job anymore" if employers suffer financially.

Tom Dixon, a member of Toledo law firm Eastman and Smith Ltd., spoke yesterday to more than 100 business owners and human resources officials about the issue.

The proposal is akin to giving employees seven paid vacation days, he said.

"Why would [businesses] stay in Ohio when they can go nearby to Indiana, or to a better business environment?" he asked.

In attendance was Dick Wyka, operations vice president at Tiffin Metal Products Co., who estimated the proposal would cost his firm $34,000. "To a small company, that's a lot of money."

His full-time employees receive five paid days off a year, he said. But he said he's more concerned that the more than 60 part-time workers on his 100-member staff would be eligible for paid days off.

At Renhill Staffing Services Inc., in Perrysburg, the proposal would affect more than 1,500 employees, said spokesman Jackie Barnes. "We're all terribly concerned about it. Customers are counting on us" to provide workers, she said.

The firm, which offers nine paid vacation days annually, has considered eliminating seven of those days to make room for seven paid sick days.

"The bigger issue will be for Ohio," she added. "It's going to increase the unemployment rate."

Lisa Olvera, a marketing coordinator at Corporate Intelligence Consultants Inc. in Perrysburg, is concerned how the issue would affect her family. Her father requires heart medicine delivered daily to his home.

"What's going to happen if that home health person decides to take a day off, and no one is there to give the medicine?" she asked.

- Ted Fackler

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