MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Thousands of Minnesotans don’t get paid when they don’t work, and that could be making you sick.

The state Department of Health reports 61 percent of Minnesotans who work in private businesses do get paid sick days, but 39 percent do not.

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Most Minnesota workers without sick days are low income, earning $8.99 an hour or less, according the Health Department’s White Paper on Paid Leave and Health. Most of them work in the food preparation and serving industry.

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The Health Department reports sick workers handle food, and spread their illnesses to others at places like salad bars, restaurants, cafeterias. Sick or recently sick Minnesota food workers are the source of 214 cases of foodborne illnesses between 2004 and 2013, the report says. Those outbreaks resulted in 3,061 illnesses including norovirus to salmonella, E. coli, and hepatitis.

The Health Department says workers with the least access to paid sick days have the most contact with the public:

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    • 79 percent — Food preparation.
    • 72 percent — Personal Care.
    • 57 percent — Building Maintenance.
        The Health Department also reports thousands of cases of illnesses transmitted by sick children in day cares and schools whose parents don’t get sick days.

The White Paper concludes: “Paid sick days make everyone healthier.”