Writers Guild West Asks CBS for Expanded Sick Leave for Journalists

CBS Broadcast Center is displayed outside the building on August 13, 2019 in New York City - Getty-H 2020
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A new petition asks for at least 14 days of paid sick leave for news writers if they or a loved one contracts the novel coronavirus.

The Writers Guild of America West is putting pressure on CBS to lengthen the number of sick days available to journalists covering the coronavirus outbreak.

In a recent petition penned in March, the writers union calls on the network to provide at least 14 days of paid sick leave to news, web, digital and promo writers that have been hospitalized with COVID-19, self-isolated due to COVID-19 infection or potential exposure and/or are caregivers for individuals that have contracted COVID-19.

The petition claims CBS has so far "refused" to offer paid sick leave to its news writers beyond those guaranteed in their contracts. The WGA West says that currently individuals must go to human resources to ask for sick leave amid the outbreak, with no clear policy in place. "WGAW news writers at CBS are putting their health on the line to make sure that vital news continues through the COVID-19 pandemic," the petition says. "We call on CBS to do the right thing and expand paid sick leave for all their news writers. We have asked for assurances but so far CBS has been silent.?"

The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to CBS for comment.

In late March, CBS News journalist Maria Mercader died after being infected with the coronavirus. Mercader, 54, was based in New York City, significantly covered foreign and domestic breaking news and had fought cancer and other related illnesses over the previous few decades.

The petition continues, "It is time for CBS to protect its WGAW writers who are working so hard to help protect millions of people in Southern California by keeping them engaged and informed."

In most states, news media is considered an "essential business" that can elide self-quarantine and isolation policies during the coronavirus outbreak, even as offices are taking extra precautions. In a recent interview with THR, NBC Nightly News and Dateline anchor Lester Holt said that he would film himself from his home if he had to in order to cover the evolving coronavirus story: "As journalists, this is our calling," he said. "This is what our jobs are especially at times like this: to help people understate what's happening, why it's happening."