Vermont governor says he supports paid sick days bill

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said Tuesday he now supports a bill requiring employers to allow workers to take paid sick days.

That's a change from his opposition to a similar measure last year, but Shumlin said the legislation has undergone enough changes to win his support.

The governor said a key change is that the measure as now written would not place any new administrative burdens on Vermont businesses that already are providing paid time off benefits equal to or better than what's called for in the bill.

He spoke at a news conference with Democratic Reps. Sarah Copeland Hanzas of Bradford and Tristan Toleno of Brattleboro, both small business owners who said they opposed last year's version and supported this year's.

Copeland Hanzas, who owns the Local Buzz cafe on Main Street in Bradford, said in an interview later that last session's bill was "much more aggressive" in that it called for seven days of paid sick leave. The bill under consideration this year calls for three in its first two years and five a year thereafter.

She said employees won't be able to take advantage of the law that would result from this year's bill until they have worked 1,400 hours or a year if they're working part time.

"There were concerns about abuse by temporary or seasonal or part-time workers," she said. The waiting period is designed to ensure the worker is "committed" to the employer, Copeland Hanzas added.

Shumlin's comments came during a news conference where he highlighted National Equal Pay Day and announced a new voluntary effort to get Vermont businesses to pledge to pay women equally to men.