SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — The coronavirus pandemic could be spurring a needed benefit for San Jose workers: extended paid sick leave. An estimated 35% of San Jose workers don’t have any paid sick leave, with women, blacks and Latinos particularly at risk, according to a city council memo.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo says that’s a big concern during the coronavirus outbreak.

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“We encourage employees to make good decisions. Particularly in the restaurants where we know if people are sick, they may be working, preparing food and spreading a virus. It’s important that everyone feel they have a choice to stay home without financial risk to themselves,” Liccardo said.

A food service worker hands a customer food, one of the many employees still working during the coronavirus pandemic and who may be affected by not having guaranteed paid sick leave (CBS)

Unlike other large cities in the state, San Jose has no mandatory sick leave requirements for businesses. Workers are covered under California law, but only for three days of sick time.

In San Jose’s rules committee on Wednesday, city councilmembers proposed extending that to 80 hours.

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“We felt given the crisis of the global pandemic, that it was time to put something in to save lives right now,” said councilmember Maya Esparza.

“Right now, I’m working from home, that’s working out for me as long as I don’t get sick,” said Dalene Thompson, who works as a paralegal in San Jose and would benefit from the proposal.

“My company, they don’t offer paid sick leave, um. I don’t know how they would cover me but if I had some extra assurance from the city, that would be great,” Thompson said.

The extra paid leave would have to be covered by employers. And the city is now looking for ways to support small and micro businesses to help them provide workers with the extra paid sick time off, if they need it.

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The proposal will have a first reading at a San Jose Council meeting on April 1 and will be up for final approval on April 7.