The Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act was passed in the District of Columbia five years ago to accommodate ill employees and maintain workplace sanitation. Due to a collection of loopholes, however, 30 percent of D.C. businesses still do not offer paid sick leave.

This applies to 80 percent of workers in the restaurant industry. Out of these employees, 59 percent report having worked while sick — a statistic that should make workers and restaurant patrons queasy.

This issue of workers’ rights close to home. Two years ago, a report by the Restaurant Opportunities Center found Clyde’s Group — whose holdings include local mainstays The Tombs, Clyde’s and 1789 — to be one of the District’s lowest-scoring restaurant employers. Clyde’s enforces the 2008 act by achieving the bare minimum: offering non-tipped workers 10 days of paid leave per year with no distinction between vacation and health. The 2008 law does not require paid leave in any form for workers whose wage is predicated on gratuity.

Pushback against paid sick leave has traditionally come from business owners, who excuse their abuse of this policy because of financial implications. But a study conducted in San Francisco, where a a law similar to the District’s was passed in 2007, found that of the two-thirds of employers who now support the measure, 90 percent say they’ve seen little financial consequence for their business.

The act passed in 2008 was an important start, but the D.C. city council and restaurant employers can be more compassionate toward the sick and more protective of consumers. Tomorrow, Paid Sick Days for All, a coalition of more than 50 local businesses and nonprofits, will launch a campaign on Twitter to expand the 2008 law, something nine D.C. councilmembers are already behind. Without it, it’s hard to eat at a restaurant in the District with a clean conscience.

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