Connecticut state Rep. Manny Sanchez debates a bill in the...

Connecticut state Rep. Manny Sanchez debates a bill in the House of Representatives chamber that would expand the state's current paid sick leave law, Wednesday, April 24, 2024 in Hartford, Conn. The bill would eventually require all employers to provide time off by 2027. Credit: AP/Susan Haigh

HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut's first-in-the-nation paid sick leave law from 2011 moved closer Wednesday to being updated, requiring all employers, down to those with a single worker, to provide their employees with time off by 2027.

Cheers were heard from the House of Representatives gallery after lawmakers voted 88-61 in favor of legislation that attempts to provide guaranteed time off to people left out of the old law, including many low-wage and part-time workers across the state. The bill is expected to clear the Senate in the coming days.

Both chambers are controlled by Democrats.

While Republicans argued the bill will be a burden for small businesses, proponents said the proposed expansion is common sense, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve experienced quite a culture change since 2011, and that’s especially true even more since we experienced the pandemic,” said Democratic House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, who said people no longer want themselves or a coworker to go into work sick. “People shouldn’t have to choose between being sick, making other people sick, and losing out on compensation.”

If the bill is ultimately signed by Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, as expected, Connecticut will join Washington, D.C., Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont and Washington in requiring paid sick leave for any business with one or more employees.

Republican House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said that would be a mistake. He and other GOP lawmakers argued the bill will create a financial and bureaucratic hardship for small business owners and break the state's recent cycle of economic growth.

Connecticut’s current paid sick law generally requires certain employers with at least 50 employees to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave annually to “service workers” in certain specified occupations. This bill applies to all employees and affects employers with 25 or more workers beginning Jan. 1, 2025; 11 or more workers beginning Jan. 1, 2026; and one or more workers beginning Jan. 1, 2027.

An employee would accrue one hour of paid sick leave for each 30 hours worked, for a maximum of 40 hours of paid leave per year.

“We are now taking a giant leap and going to have a broad-brush impact every business throughout the entire state of Connecticut — and I don’t think people here appreciate or understand how it’s going to affect them,” Candelora said.

The bill, the result of months of negotiations to ultimately get a proposal that could clear the House, was also criticized for being too lenient and not requiring workers to provide their employer with a doctor's note.

“This could be for somebody to take a day off and go to the beach,” said Republican Rep. Steve Weir of Hebron. “Let’s be honest. This not sick leave. It provides an unfunded mandate on our employers.”

Lamont, a Democrat and former businessman, said he believes the bill strikes an appropriate balance between protecting the workforce and providing safeguards so the benefit is not misused and small business owners are protected.

“Especially considering what we learned during the recent outbreak of a viral pandemic, it’s appropriate that we take a look at our existing paid sick days laws and evaluate how they are working and how we can strengthen them,” Lamont said in a statement.

Lamont said he will sign the bill once it passes the Senate.

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