Baker’s sick day prompts caller to highlight new law

PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

By Gintautas Dumcius

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

STATE HOUSE — Gov. Charlie Baker’s decision to take time off from work this week for a flu-like illness earned him a rebuke on Thursday from a caller on the radio who questioned him about sick time benefits.

A caller identifying himself as “Eric” from Grafton accused Baker, appearing on WGBH’s “Ask the Governor” segment on WGBH’s “Boston Public Radio” show, of campaigning against the ballot initiative.

Along with splitting the ticket in electing Democratic majorities in the Legislature and sending a Republican to the governor’s office, voters in November also approved a law expanding earned sick time to all workers. Business groups and Baker opposed the measure.

“How do you justify taking a paid sick day yesterday?” the caller asked.

“I didn’t campaign against earned sick time, per se, but I didn’t support the ballot question that was before the voters, and the main reason for that is it’s the broadest, most restrictive, most comprehensive earned sick time policy in the country by a wide margin,” Baker responded.

Baker said he made a “series of proposals” during his campaign for governor that he thought would be “easier” for small businesses and “more flexible” because companies vary in their policies. His proposals would have been less expensive to implement and easier to enforce than the ballot question, he added.

The law, known as Question 4 on the November 2014 ballot, guarantees workers at companies with 11 or more employees up to 40 hours of earned and paid sick time.

“I’m a big believer in earned sick time, I just felt that that law in particular would have some unintended consequences,” Baker said. “We’re going to implement it enthusiastically and see where it goes, and I certainly hope that it doesn’t have some of the unintended consequences that I was concerned about.”

Earlier in the show, one of the co-hosts of “Boston Public Radio,” Jim Braude, gently teased Baker about taking a day off to recover from the illness, suggesting he’d already instituted a four-day work week. Baker could not attend Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s “state of the city” address on Tuesday night and cleared his public schedule on Wednesday.

“My big concern, to tell you the truth, was I started to feel really sick on Monday, it got worse on Tuesday, and my thought was I could hang around here and infect everyone, go to the mayor’s state of the city and every single person I met would have an opportunity to be infected by me, or I could just go home and get out of the way and do the public health appropriate thing to do, which I did,” Baker said.

Baker said he was “mostly tired” and that he went to bed at “five o’clock on Tuesday and got up about three o’clock Wednesday afternoon.”

“Oh, there you go, there you go,” said co-host Margery Eagan. “Well, you look pretty good, Charlie.”

“I’m much better now,” Baker said. “Much better.”