Falling Sick, Losing livelihood: Why We Need to Strengthen D.C.’s Paid Sick Days Law

Diane Wilkes enjoyed her job more than most. After struggling with depression for years, her position as an office cleaner gave her a sense of purpose and pride. In mid December of 2012, as the temperatures dropped and people throughout the District began to fall ill with the season’s first bout of flu, Ms. Wilkes fell ill. After going to the Bread for the City Medical Clinic she was told she had the flu. Later, when her flu symptoms worsened, Ms. Wilkes found out that she actually had pneumonia.

Ms. Wilkes tried calling her employer several times over the course of the first couple days of her illness to let her employer know that she would be too sick to go to work. Despite having 4 unused paid sick days, after working as a cleaning lady for almost 3 years, Ms. Wilkes was ultimately fired from her position for getting sick. Despite a cell phone record that shows otherwise, Ms. Wilkes was told she was terminated for not calling.

Ms. Wilkes is now in the process of trying to recover the wages from the 3 sick days she took before officially being terminated by her employer. Losing her job only a week before Christmas, Ms. Wilkes did not have enough money to buy presents for her grandchildren. Her hope is to recover the wages from these three days of work and finally be able to buy these gifts.

Ms. Wilkes, like so many low-income workers in D.C., understands all too well how paid sick days can mean the difference between eating or not, paying your rent or not.

Without strengthening the law to ensure workers who legally earn paid sick days are able to use them, low-wage workers like Ms. Wilkes will continue to risk losing precious wages, or even their very livelihood, when they fall ill. Sign the petition now so we can demonstrate the widespread support for this measure.


  1. […] this month, we blogged about Diane Wilkes, who was fired just before Christmas for missing work when she was sick. Today, we’re excited […]