By Judy Patrick

In response to the swine flu epidemic, President Obama and the Centers for Disease Control are offering Americans some common-sense advice: wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and stay home from work if you feel sick.

Unfortunately, nearly half of all private-sector workers -- 57 million people -- may be forced to ignore that last piece of advice, because they aren’t allowed paid sick days and they risk losing income or even getting fired if they call in sick. For low-wage workers, that number is even higher: three out of four do not have the right to a paid sick day.

To our national shame, the U.S. stands alone among the top developed economies in the world in not providing workers with the right to stay home if they or a child is ill. It’s no different here in California, where, as in the rest of the country, half of all workers are denied even one single paid sick day.