When Crystal Orozco got sick with the coronavirus last month, she missed nearly two weeks' worth of her salary as a shift leader at a fast food restaurant and had to ask family members for a loan to help pay her rent.
"My check was literally $86," she said. "I was like, 'Oh my god.'"
Orozco could soon get backpay from her company for the time she was out sick. The California Legislature on Monday is scheduled to vote on a bill that would require most companies to give employees up to two weeks of paid time off if they get sick with the coronavirus — and the proposal would be retroactive to Jan. 1.
At the beginning of the pandemic, state and federal laws required employers to give their workers paid time off if they got sick with the coronavirus. But many of those laws have expired. California's law expired last September.
After the omicron variant of the virus fueled a surge of new cases, labor unions pressured state officials to revive the law and Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom reached a deal to do so with legislative leaders.
Orozco, a member of the Service Employees International Union, said she was denied paid time off when she got sick.
At least six of the 16 people who work at her restaurant — more than one-third of the workforce — had coronavirus symptoms or missed work because of the virus, according to a complaint filed by the workers with state and local officials. The complaint is still pending, Orozco said.
Orozco said she and her husband had to skip their car insurance payment and used borrowed money to help pay their rent. If the Legislature approves the law, she said to would allow her to "know I'm able to pay back my family that let me borrow that money."
"It's going to help everybody in the same industry (that are) tight on money," she said.
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