Some jurisdictions in the United States maintain laws which require employers to provide a certain amount of pay when an employee is absent due to sickness. Although some companies voluntarily offer their own sick leave program, such jurisdictions require that all businesses offer some sort of sick leave. Additionally, the sick leave provided by a company within these jurisdictions must meet the jurisdiction’s version of sick leave. This means that a company may provide their employees more paid sick leave than what the jurisdiction mandates, but not less.

These laws provide paid sick leave as long as the employee works in the jurisdiction. The employee is generally not required to live in the jurisdiction in which they are employed, or even be a citizen of that jurisdiction. At the federal level, the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) requires covered employers to provide qualifying employees with job protected and unpaid leave for qualified medical and family circumstances. Protected leave may last up to twelve weeks per year under the FMLA.

However, there is no pay requirement under the FMLA. This does not seem to conflict with any state laws that mandate paid sick leave. What this means is that in states that have mandatory paid sick leave, workers are entitled to whatever amount of paid sick leave their state provides. This would be in addition to the twelve weeks of unpaid medical or family leave mandated by federal law.

Which States Require Mandatory Sick Leave?

In 2011, Connecticut passed its own version of mandatory paid sick leave which applies to all companies who have more than fifty employees. Employees are given one hour of paid sick leave for every forty hours worked. Connecticut’s version of mandatory paid sick leave only applies to hourly employees, and does not cover temporary employees or independent contractors.

Washington, D.C. has a similar law in place. Workers in a business that employs over one hundred employees may take up to one week of paid sick leave. Businesses who employ twenty-five to ninety-nine employees can provide those employees with up to five days of paid sick leave. Companies who employ less than twenty-five employees are required to grant up to three days of paid sick leave. Unlike other states, D.C. also provides “safe leave.” Safe leave gives an employee the right to take leave if they are the victim of domestic violence, stalking, and/or sexual assault.

As of 2014 California has a mandatory paid sick leave law in place. Additionally, if an employee has a serious illness, the state of California has Disability Insurance Laws in place which can provide assistance. Arizona employees may earn one hour of paid sick leave for every thirty hours they work. An employee may only accrue twenty four hours of paid sick leave per year if their employer has fifteen or fewer employees. An employee may accrue forty hours of paid sick leave if their employer maintains more than fifteen employees.

As of April 2020, the following states also have enacted laws that require paid sick leave to some extent:

  • Massachusetts;
  • California;
  • Connecticut;
  • Washington;
  • Oregon;
  • Vermont;
  • Rhode Island;
  • Maryland;
  • New Jersey;
  • Michigan;
  • Nevada; and
  • Maine (does not take effect until 2021).

Which Cities Require Mandatory Paid Sick Leave?

Some cities and counties have their own mandatory paid sick leave laws, independent of their state’s laws that govern the matter. Paid sick leave is still subject to employer eligibility even in these cities. As of 2019, these cities include:

  • California: Berkeley, Emeryville, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco, and Santa Monica;
  • Illinois: Chicago and Cook County;
  • Montgomery County, Maryland;
  • Minnesota: Duluth, Minneapolis, and St. Paul;
  • New York: New York City and Westchester County;
  • Pennsylvania: Philadelphia and Pittsburgh;
  • Texas: Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio; and
  • Washington: Seattle and Tacoma.

City laws and state laws may have different rules regarding how much time may be accrued, and what employers are eligible. If a business is in a city that maintains both city and state mandatory paid sick leave laws, the business must honor whichever law provides the most paid sick leave to employees.

San Francisco was the first city in the United States to pass mandatory paid sick leave laws, which went into effect in 2007. In 2012, Seattle enacted laws that exempt businesses with less than five employees; safe leave is also included in Seattle’s laws. Milwaukee’s mandatory paid sick leave law was struck down due to the fact that Wisconsin has a Constitutional provision which specifically bans mandatory paid sick leave laws.

Do I Need an Attorney for Issues With Mandatory Paid Sick Leave?

If you have questions about the paid sick leave your jurisdiction requires as either an employee or an employer, you should consult with a skilled and knowledgeable employment law attorney. An experienced employment law attorney can provide you with necessary information and assist you in filing a claim if your employer has failed to provide you with mandated paid sick leave. Additionally, an attorney can help you initiate a civil lawsuit against your employer. Finally, an attorney can represent you in court as needed.