Paid sick leave laws are gaining traction across the nation and are not showing any signs of slowing down. As we recently reported, on September 7, 2015, President Obama signed an Executive Order requiring certain covered federal contractors and subcontractors to provide up to 56 hours of paid sick leave to an employee per year. Four states (California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Oregon) have passed paid sick leave legislation, and more than 20 cities have passed comprehensive paid sick leave legislation, including:
- CA: Emeryville, Oakland and San Francisco
- MD: Montgomery County
- NJ: Bloomfield, East Orange, Irvington, Jersey City, Monclair, Newark, Passaic, Paterson and Trenton
- NY: New York City
- OR: Portland and Eugene (preempted by state law)
- PA: Philadelphia and Pittsburgh
- WA: Seattle and Tacoma
- Washington, D.C.
Additional localities (e.g., Long Beach and Los Angeles, CA) have enacted paid sick leave ordinances to provide paid sick leave for employees working in certain industries, such as hotel workers. Some of these laws go into effect in 2016. However, most are already in effect, and covered employers must now comply.
For what reasons can employees use leave?
Though each varies, generally, these laws require employers to provide employees with paid leave to diagnose, care for or treat their own, or their family member’s illness, injury or condition, or for preventative medical care. Permissible uses are often broader than typical sick leave. Some laws also require employers to provide paid leave for domestic violence, stalking or sexual assaults. The local ordinance in Emeryville, CA, offers paid leave for care of service animals.
How much leave must employers provide?
Most of the jurisdictions allow employers to either provide a lump sum of leave up front each year or accrue one hour of paid sick leave per every 30 hours worked, but not all. Each law generally places a cap on usage and accrual. However, some jurisdictions such as Seattle, WA, offer much more generous caps on accrual.
What if we already provide paid leave (PTO or vacation) in excess of seven days per year? Do we need a separate sick pay policy, or can we incorporate it into PTO?
While it is possible to incorporate covered sick leave into a general PTO policy, employers must ensure that the PTO policy still meets the minimum requirements of the law(s), which is sometimes impractical. In most cases, employers will need to alter, for example, their accrual method, advance notice provisions, acceptable reasons for use and PTO carryover.
Which employees are eligible?
Employee eligibility requirements for paid sick leave tend to be minimal. For instance, many laws offer paid sick leave to not only regular full-time employees but also to part-time or temporary employees. Often times, an employer need not have a facility or office in the city or state to be covered. For instance, under California’s paid sick leave law, an employee need only work in California for 30 days per year to be eligible for paid sick time. This could mean that an employee who does not live in and/or is not based out of California may still be eligible for paid sick leave under California state law.
What other provisions do I need to consider?
In addition, the laws generally include anti-retaliation provisions, notice and posting requirements and recordkeeping obligations. Some laws, such as California’s, require employers to provide written notice of available paid sick time with each pay stub.
What should employers do?
Employers should first analyze whether their company is subject to any current or pending paid sick leave laws. Here are some initial questions to ask:
- Does my company have a facility in any of the states/cities mentioned?
- Does my company employ a sales force (or salesperson) or other employees in the city/state?
- Do my company’s managers, salespersons, technicians or other employees travel for business in the city/state? If so, how frequently?
If employers determine their business may be covered under state and/or local paid sick leave law(s) listed above, they need to familiarize themselves with the specifics of those jurisdictions and implement the necessary changes to policies and practices. We are happy to assist in identifying coverage and implementing compliant changes.
It seems inevitable that we will continue to see more paid sick leave laws in the future. Keep an eye out for them, and we will too.