Mandatory Paid Sick Leave

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What Is Mandatory Paid Sick Leave?

A small number of jurisdictions in the United States have laws which require employers to give a certain amount of paid sick leave time to employees. Although many companies voluntarily offer their own sick leave programs, these jurisdictions require that all businesses offer sick leave.

In addition, the sick leave given by a company within these jurisdictions must at least meet the jurisdiction’s version of sick leave. A company may give its employees more sick leave, but not less.

Note that these laws provide sick leave as long as an employee works in the jurisdiction; the employee is typically not required to live in or even be a citizen of the jurisdiction. 

Which States Require Mandatory Sick Leave?

Connecticut passed its own version of mandatory paid sick leave in 2011. The law applies to companies with more than 50 employees, giving them one hour of paid sick leave for every forty hours worked. Connecticut’s version only applies to hourly workers and does not include temporary employees or independent contractors.

Washington, D.C. has also approved a similar law. In the District of Columbia, workers in a business with over a hundred employees can have up to a week in sick leave. Businesses with twenty-five to ninety-nine employees can earn up to five days of sick leave. Companies with less than twenty-five employees must grant up to three days of sick leave. Unlike many other mandatory sick leave laws, the District of Columbia’s version gives an employee the right to take leave if the employee is a victim of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault. This is known as “safe leave.”

The California Assembly failed to pass a mandatory paid sick leave law in 2011 and there have been on further attempts to pass a similar bill since. However, California does require that employers give workers up to twelve weeks of unpaid sick leave. For employees with serious illnesses, the state’s Disability Insurance laws can provide assistance.
Many other states are considering passing such laws.

Which Cities Require Mandatory Sick Leave?

San Francisco became the first city in America to pass such a mandatory paid sick leave law, which went in effect in early 2007. The law mandates that for every 30 hours an employee works, they must accrue one hour of paid sick leave. This affects virtually all employers in the city, even most of those that already offer paid sick leave, since the law mandates accrual at a faster rate than most employers voluntarily offer it. For companies with fewer than 10 employees, accrued sick leave is capped at 40 hours. For companies with more than 10 employees, the cap is 72 hours.

As of August 2012, Seattle has enacted mandatory paid sick leave laws. Unlike the San Francisco law, Seattle completely exempts businesses with less than five employees from the law. Companies that have five to forty-nine employees must provide at least five days of sick leave. Employers with fifty to 249 workers must have at least a week of sick leave and businesses with more than 250 employees must give at least nine days of sick leave. Seattle includes safe leave in its version.

Milwaukee had a mandatory paid sick leave law but a judge struck it down because the state of Wisconsin has a Constitutional provision which specifically bans mandatory sick leave laws. 

Are There Comparable Federal Laws?

The Family and Medical Leave Act currently requires most employers to give up to 12 weeks per year of sick leave, but there is no requirement that it be paid. This does not appear to conflict with any state laws mandating paid sick leave. It simply means that, in the states that have mandatory paid sick leave, workers will be entitled to whatever amount of paid sick leave their state has created, in addition to the 12 weeks of unpaid leave mandated by federal law.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you have any question or concerns about the sick leave your jurisdiction requires, you should contact an experienced employment attorney who can provide you with the necessary information. An attorney can also assist you with a claim if your employer has failed to give you sick leave according to the legal requirements.  If you are an employer, you should speak with an attorney to ensure that your sick leave policies are in full compliance with the laws.

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Last Modified: 02-18-2014 02:38 PM PST

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