• Paid Sick Leave - It’s an Epidemic
  • October 21, 2015 | Author: Tiffanny Brosnan
  • Law Firm: Snell & Wilmer L.L.P. - Costa Mesa Office
  • From California to Connecticut, and places in between, the reach of paid sick leave laws is spreading rapidly. Currently, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington D.C. have state- (or district-) wide laws requiring employers to provide paid sick time for their employees. President Obama recently signed an executive order requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to provide paid sick leave on a national level. Counties and cities are also taking the movement down to a more local level. San Francisco, Oakland and Emeryville, California have their own paid sick leave laws, as well as Seattle, Washington; New York City, New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and nine cities in New Jersey.

    Next year, voters in Michigan and San Diego may vote on paid sick leave laws.

    Early “symptoms” of paid sick leave laws are showing up in state and local legislatures all over the country. In the last year, in all of the following 22 states, the legislature considered - or is still considering - bills requiring paid sick leave: Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

    If approved, the Healthy Families Act, a federal bill introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives earlier this year, would require private employers with 15 or more employees to provide seven days of paid sick leave.

    In many instances, there is no threshold number of employees required for a particular paid sick leave law to apply. And an employee might not even have to work fulltime in a jurisdiction for the paid sick leave law to apply. For example, regardless of the total number of employees, an employer who has one employee who works 30 or more days in California must comply with California’s paid sick leave law for that individual employee - even if the employee’s primary worksite is outside of California.

    What makes this even more challenging for employers is that just like a flu shot doesn’t cover all of the possible flu strains in a particular year, a “one size fits all” paid sick leave policy does not necessarily cover all of the permutations of the paid sick leave laws. Consider the following differences:
    • Accrual rate: Connecticut requires paid sick leave to accrue at a rate of 1 hour for every 40 hours worked, while California requires 1 hour for every 30 hours worked. In Washington D.C. the accrual rate fluctuates depending on the number of employees.
    • Caps on accrual: Federal contractors (regardless of location) can cap the accrual at 56 hours, while Oregon has a cap of 40 hours.
    • Use: In addition to taking sick leave for the employee’s own care, under most of the paid sick leave laws employees can take time off to care for a loved one. However, who is included in that list varies. In Connecticut it is limited to children and spouses. In Massachusetts it extends to children, spouses, parents and parents of a spouse. In California, siblings and grandparents are added to the list. In Oakland, California, an employee without a spouse or registered domestic partner can designate anyone. And in Emeryville, California paid sick leave is even available to care for a non-human - a service dog.
    This list is by no means exhaustive.

    As with medicine, prevention is often the best cure. In order to prevent future problems with paid sick leave, employers may wish to look into the individual requirements in any state, county or city where their employees perform work. Both advocacy organizations and government websites may provide additional information on paid sick leave laws.