Some California legislators are pushing to renew a state program increasing the mandatory paid sick leave from three days to two weeks to cut down on the spread of COVID.
They say the supplemental sick leave can protect employers and employees like Bartolome Perez.
The McDonald's employee says he felt stuck in a tough situation at work almost from the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Perez explained through an interpreter why it got worse after December 31.
"When emergency paid sick leave protections ended, many workers like myself were faced with a difficult choice: Go to work sick or lose out on income our families need to survive," Perez said.
He says he's worked for the fast-food giant for 30 years, but his Los Angeles restaurant has taken several hits from the virus.
He helped organize a walkout for better conditions in April, but not much changed and he kept showing up for his shifts.
"On Dec. 16, a co-worker of mine got sick on the job and employers did not tell us until the 20th," Perez said. "They waited four days because they did not want to quarantine any of us. As a result, I became ill on the 21st."
He says three generations got sick when he took the illness home with him.
"We are proud of the rigorous policies we have in place to ensure crew and customer safety," said the restaurant's owner Nicole Enearu. "With any confirmed COVID-19 case in our organization, our policy is to immediately close to thoroughly sanitize the restaurant, notify local health authorities, and notify employees who may have been in close contact with the infected individual to self-quarantine for 14 days."
That can cost a business a lot of money and some California politicians say letting paid sick leave expire created a situation where employees and businesses might suffer.
San Diego Democrat Lorena Gonzalez says it's also extending the pandemic because community spread won't stop while sick people still go to work.
"When you stay home, you shouldn't have to lose your job and you shouldn't be subject to not paying your bills because suddenly you got sick, even though you've been going to work every single day during this pandemic," said Assm. Gonzalez. "It's simply not fair the position we've put our essential workers in. The position we've put our small businesses in."
Gonzalez says the state needs to act right now because on March 31, a federal program offering tax credits to businesses giving employees paid sick leave will expire.
But the Biden administration's latest coronavirus relief package would likely extend it.
California Dems want to renew supplemental sick leave to curtail pandemic