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With no paid leave mandate in new stimulus bill, workers are left with fewer protections

In June, clothing retailer Raygun reopened its doors to the public. Raygun employs nearly 100 staffers across six different stores—but since reopening six months ago, there has been no known COVID-19 transmission among them. Just this week, an employee in Raygun’s shipping department learned that his mom had tested positive for COVID-19. He was immediately asked to depart the site and take paid leave. Even after he tested negative, the company took precautions to separate him from other employees. “We adjusted some schedules so he can come in after hours and do some shipping all by himself,” says Raygun founder Mike Draper. “It’s just this constant balance.”

For small businesses like Raygun, access to paid leave has been crucial, both to stay afloat financially and curb the transmission of COVID-19 in their workplaces. Raygun was already providing paid sick leave to its employees—both full-time and part-time workers—but the paid leave benefits secured by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which Congress passed in response to the pandemic back in March, far outstripped what the company could offer. The FFCRA promised two weeks of paid sick leave to full-time workers who contracted COVID-19 or were quarantining; parents and caregivers were eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid leave.

“If somebody is sick, you could say, ‘Oh, I allowed them to stay home. How magnanimous of me,’” Draper says. “Well, shit, if I’m working with that person, they could get me sick. If you want a healthy workforce, you have to keep people home.”

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