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University hospital workers protest new sick leave policy. It’s still double the local minimum.

They’re also unhappy about a new excused-absence rule

Workers at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine took to the streets on Tuesday to protest a revision to the institution’s existing sick-leave policy in a way that one worker said would constitute “a threat to [workers’] health.”

Current Keck policy “does not limit the amount of paid time off that can be used for short-term illness,” The Daily Trojan reports. The new policy would stipulate 96 hours of paid sick leave per year, which rounds out to 12 eight-hour days of sick time.

That’s twice as much as the local Los Angeles mandated minimum, which allows for just 48 hours of sick leave per year, according to The Trojan. Still, workers were upset by the new rule, as well as a new policy which dictates that “an unexcused absence from work without advanced notice will result in a final warning before termination.” Current policy allows disciplinary action only after six unexcused absences.

The protesting workers claimed the new policy “compromises their ability to care for dependents when they fall ill,” The Daily reports:

“We’re picketing because it’s not only affecting us as workers, it’s also affecting the family that we raise, from our children to our elderly parents,” said Bernadette Ramos, a registered nurse who attended the protest. “We have to fight for this because we don’t want to call in sick, but we have to have that guarantee that when we need it, it will be there for us…”

The protesters, which included medical assistants and technicians, respiratory therapists and registered nurses, said the change would cause more hospital employees to come to work sick and potentially transmit diseases to their patients.

“You don’t want to come in sick and then have our patients, who are susceptible to all kinds of illnesses, be exposed to us as well,” Ramos said. “We like our job. We like being nurses. But if they don’t let us go have our rest time when we’re sick, then we will come sick. And who will that benefit? Nobody.”

Referring to the protest as an “informational picket,” the hospital in a statement said that it “updated its attendance and punctuality policy to ensure that the organization continues to provide the exceptional care our patients expect from us each and every day. Our number one priority…is to provide outstanding patient care.”

Read the report here.

MORE: U. Minnesota employees want parental leave equity

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