The North Carolina Justice Center is partnering with mission-driven organizations like Women AdvaNCe to help ensure that living, working, and raising a family in North Carolina are dignified, supported experiences. Together, we are working to secure four main accommodations to benefit North Carolina residents: 1) Paid Sick and Safe Days, 2) Paid Family Medical and Parental Leave, 3) Pregnancy Accommodations, and 4) Living Wages.
PAID SICK DAYS
We’ve all been sick – and when you’re curled up with a terrible bug, the last thing you want to do is get out of bed and head to work. Not only is this deleterious for your own health, it is also dangerous to the other employees in your workplace. In general, salaried state- and private-employees are granted anywhere from 4-10 paid sick days per year. However, employees of small companies or employees paid by the hour are often not given this same right. Simply put, if an hourly worker takes a day off from work due to illness, they forfeit a day’s wages. Not only does this disincentivize quarantining to protect other employees from illness, it can also make illness a financial burden.
Emily, who works in North Carolina spoke with Women AdvaNCe about why paid sick days are so important, especially for people struggling with chronic conditions. At 16 years old, Emily developed endometriosis, a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows in the abdominal cavity, attaching itself to organs, intestines, and muscle. As anyone with endometriosis knows, the condition can be excruciatingly painful. More often than not, Emily describes than the pain comes on without warning. While walking through the house, she will suddenly “double over and need to grab something to stay upright.” Other times, the pain will flare while she is driving, causing “the wind to leave [her] lungs.” It takes all the strength she can muster to stay concentrated on the road long enough to pull over. Once the pain begins, it will not go away for hours, and Emily will “just have to go to sleep, because otherwise [she’s] awake and suffering.”
To make matters worse, Emily’s suffering does not end just when the acute pain subsides. Emily describes that the days “after the pain are [also] extremely exhausting. It takes everything out of you. Your body is so exhausted from that trauma that it’s difficult to be a person again.”
Needless to say, struggling with this level of pain completely eradicates Emily’s ability to meaningfully participate in work. Given the nature of her endometriosis flares, Emily often does not know when or for how long she will require time off from work. And even though Emily loves her job, her health needs to come first. Paid sick days allow Emily to take the rest and receive the medical care needed for her body to heal without fear of losing her position, pay or financial security.
OUR CALL TO ACTION:
North Carolina – empower workers to protect their health and well-being during times of illness, without fear of jeopardizing their livelihood.
Emma Hergenrother is from Ridgefield, CT. She is excited to be currently living in Durham, NC, and contributed to Women AdvaNCe as a Research Fellow. Earning her Bachelor’s from Princeton University, Emma majored in religion with a focus on the relationship between religious attitudes, theological beliefs, and environmentalism. Since graduation, Emma has worked for an affordable housing nonprofit in Connecticut, and is currently studying to become a physician with a focus on pediatric health. In her free time, Emma enjoys cooking with her partner, going for long walks, and diving into her latest audiobook.