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Association of Paid Sick Leave Laws With Foodborne Illness Rates

2017 | American Journal of Preventive Medicine

Previous studies suggest an association between paid sick leave (PSL) and better
population health, including fewer infectious and nosocomial gastrointestinal disease outbreaks. Yet
few studies examine whether laws requiring employers to offer PSL demonstrate a similar
association. This mixed-methods study examined whether laws requiring employers to provide
PSL are associated with decreased foodborne illness rates, particularly laws that are more supportive
of employees taking leave.
The four earliest PSL laws were classified by whether they were more or less supportive
of employees taking leave. Jurisdictions with PSL were matched to comparison jurisdictions
by population size and density. Using difference-in-differences, monthly foodborne illness rates
(2000–2014) in implementation and comparison jurisdictions before and after the laws were
effective were compared, stratifying by how supportive the laws were of employees taking leave, and
then by disease. The empirical analysis was conducted from 2015–2017.
Foodborne illness rates declined after implementation of the PSL law in jurisdictions with
laws more supportive of employees taking leave, but increased in jurisdictions with laws that are less
supportive. In adjusted analyses, PSL laws that were more supportive of employees taking sick leave
were associated with an adjusted 22% decrease in foodborne illness rates (p¼0.005). These results are
driven by campylobacteriosis.
Although the results suggest an association between more supportive PSL laws and
decreased foodborne illness rates, they should be interpreted cautiously because the trend is driven
by campylobacteriosis, which has low person-to-person transmission.


Study authors: Charleen Hsuan, JD, PhD, Kat DeBurgh, MPH, Dawn M. Jacobson, MD, MPH, Suzanne Ryan-Ibarra

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