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Updated CT paid sick time law brings hope to domestic workers and laborers

FILE: Aug. 16th 2023 - Representatives from workers rights groups like One Fair Wage, union members, and residents from Hartford and surrounding towns packed Semilla Cafe + Studio in Hartford to discuss economic justice issues with mayoral candidates. Several people shared injustices and hardships they’ve experienced in the workplace and pressed candidates to fight for more worker protection, better wages, and public health and housing. The forum was translated into Spanish in real-time by organizers. (Ryan Caron King/Connecticut Public)
Ryan Caron King/Connecticut Public
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Connecticut Public
FILE: Aug. 16th 2023 - Representatives from workers rights groups like One Fair Wage, union members, and residents from Hartford and surrounding towns packed Semilla Cafe + Studio in Hartford to discuss economic justice issues with mayoral candidates. Several people shared injustices and hardships they’ve experienced in the workplace and pressed candidates to fight for more worker protection, better wages, and public health and housing. The forum was translated into Spanish in real-time by organizers. (Ryan Caron King/Connecticut Public)

Connecticut's amended lawexpanding paid sick days to workers marks a major win for labor rights. The law expands the definition of an employee so that many historically excluded groups, including domestic workers and other laborers, can access paid sick days.

Carmen Lanche, executive director of Comunidades Sin Fronteras, a Norwalk-based human rights organization, has led efforts to change the law that previously required paid sick days only for companies with 50 or more employees.

"This law helps ensure that all workers can have paid sick days," Lanche said. "It's a significant step forward."

She says anyone legally employed in CT, even those who may be undocumented, will have this crucial protection.

“We fight because 70 percent of our members are Latinos from Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, and recently, Venezuela,” Lanche said, “The majority of our members are 80 percent female domestic workers, and 20 percent are men day laborers.”

Lanche said the law's success is a testament to the power of persistent advocacy.

“It is very difficult to get a bill passed. It is a long struggle involving many coalitions and organizations.”

In a statement, Elizabeth Stern, a member of Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employer Network, said, "As an employer of a home healthcare caregiver, this is a fundamental step in providing dignity and respect to this essential workforce. Now all employers will have the legal guidance to offer this critical protection to workers, who will no longer have to make the impossible choice between staying home sick without pay or working while ill.”

A key part of implementing the new protections is education. Lanche said that Comunidades Sin Fronteras has been collaborating with the Connecticut Department of Labor to educate both workers and employers.

"We’ve been working for over three years with the Department of Labor, and we plan to continue this educational path," says Lanche.

Starting Jan 1. 2025, the law will apply to employers with at least 25 employees. In 2026, the paid sick day policy extends to businesses with at least 11 employees. By 2027, it will cover all employers, regardless of size. The law also broadens the definition of family, so workers can take sick time to care for anyone with a close, family-like relationship, even if they aren't related by blood.

Lanche and her organization are already gearing up for future advocacy, including broadening health coverage for immigrants to include a wider age range and hiring more inspectors for wage theft cases.

"No matter your legal status, you have rights as a worker and a person. You can reach out to us. We are here to guide you," Lanche said.

Maricarmen Cajahuaringa is a journalist with extensive experience in Latino communities' politics, social issues, and culture. She founded Boceto Media, a digital Spanish-language newspaper based in Connecticut. Maricarmen holds a Bachelor's in Social Work from Springfield College, and a Master's in Journalism and Media Production from Sacred Heart University. As a reporter for Connecticut Public, she is dedicated to delivering accurate and informative coverage of the Hispanic/Latino population in the region. Maricarmen is an experienced and passionate journalist who strives to bring a voice to the stories of her community.

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