Paid Sick Leave: A Growing Trend on the State and Local Level

In 2013, a federal paid sick leave proposal was presented to Congress as part of the Health Families Act, but failed to garner enough votes to pass. However, sick leave once again gained national attention when President Obama voiced his plans during the recent State of the Union address to create a national paid sick leave plan. The proposed law would require employers to provide their employees a minimum seven days of paid sick leave per year.

While the future of a federally mandated paid sick leave policy remains uncertain, individual states and municipalities are jumping on the trend and are establishing their own sick leave laws.

“The longer the federal law sits, the more municipalities and states are moving to pass these laws,” says William Perkins, an attorney with Seyfarth Shaw.

California and Massachusetts recently became the second and third states, respectively, to guarantee paid sick leave to most employees in their state. The first state was Connecticut which enacted the law in July, 2011.

The California law provides that most employees who work for at least 30 days are entitled to paid sick leave, accruing at a rate of at least one hour for every 30 hours worked. An employer can cap an employee’s use of paid sick days to 3 days (24 work hours) per year.

The Massachusetts law requires employers with 11 or more employees to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick time to each employee per year. Employers with 10 or fewer employees are not required to offer paid sick leave under the law. The California and Massachusetts paid sick leave laws will take effect on July 1, 2015.

Several municipalities also enacted their own paid sick leave policies. Oakland joins fellow-California city San Francisco. Trenton and Montclair, New Jersey join a host of New Jersey cities with paid sick leave policies already in place: East Orange, Irvington, Jersey City, Newark, Passaic, and Paterson. Seattle, Washington, New York and Washington D.C. also have paid sick leave laws in effect.

The Challenge

The growing trend to require paid sick leave is certainly good news for employees, but may give employers big headaches if a federal law isn’t passed soon. Multiple state and municipal laws could pose problems to businesses that operate in locations with different laws. Ultimately they would have to provide employees with the most generous sick leave plan, or administer a hodgepodge of different policies.

Additionally, when put on local ballots, voters tend to vote in favor these kinds of laws. The Public Religion Research Institute conducted a survey in 2014 which revealed a whopping 81 percent of those surveyed support paid sick leave. So the longer a national plan is delayed, the more we can expect to see paid sick leave laws appear on local ballots.

It is important that employers are aware of the trend, and should review or modify existing paid sick leave policies to ensure compliance with all applicable state and local laws. If you have any questions, CPEhr is available to provide assistance and guidance in creating a compliant paid sick benefits policy.