Ferreras introduces sick-day plan to protect workers

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (c.) leads a rally of workers and small business owners in Elmhurst. Photo by Karen Frantz.
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City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst), low-wage workers and small business owners rallied in Elmhurst Tuesday for a proposal that would protect employees’ jobs if they need to take sick days.

“We can no longer have New Yorkers lose their jobs based on the fact that they’re sick,” Ferreras said.

She said that protecting sick days was about making the city healthier. She pointed to the restaurant industry as an example and said that when workers have paid sick days, “we know that we will have healthy chefs, healthy dishwashers, healthy servers.”

The proposal would require businesses with more than five employees to provide a number of earned, paid sick days for their workers. Businesses with more than 20 employees would need to provide nine days and businesses with less than 20 employees would need to provide five days.

Businesses with fewer than five employees would not have to provide paid sick days, but workers’ jobs would be protected if they missed five days of work due to illness.

The rally took place in front of the Taqueria El Idolo restaurant on Corona Avenue, where one woman said she used to work before she was fired this year for missing work because she was sick.

Celina Alvarez, who moved to New York from Michoacan, Mexico, two years ago, told the crowd she worked at the taqueria as a cook. In February, however, she wound up in the hospital for several days after falling ill and her doctor ordered her to rest for two weeks.

When she was well enough to return to work, she said the taqueria did not take her back.

“In other words, I lost my job just because I got sick and couldn’t go back to work right away,” she said in Spanish.

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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