While employers subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) must provide unpaid sick leave to employees meeting certain requirements, no federal law requires employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave.  However, employers — including those already providing their employees with paid time off (PTO) — should be aware of the recent spate of state laws and local ordinances permitting employees to earn paid sick leave time.

In 2011, Connecticut’s state legislature passed the nation’s first state-wide paid sick leave law.  The Connecticut statute’s definition of “employer” specifically excludes “[a]ny business establishment classified in sector 31, 32, or 33 in the North American Industrial Classification System” (NAICS), which includes most facilities engaged in manufacturing.  Unfortunately, the Connecticut statute’s general exemption of manufacturing facilities is unique among the paid sick leave laws that preceded and have followed it.

In both California and Massachusetts, the second and third states to approve them, paid sick leave laws will take effect on July 1, 2015.  In both states, employees will accrue sick leave time at the rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked.  In California, employees will be able to earn up to 48 hours of sick leave time per year, while, in Massachusetts, employees will be able to earn up to 40 hours per year.  In both states, employees will be able to use their accrued sick leave time to: (1) care for their own or a family member’s health condition; and/or (2) address the effects of domestic violence.  In Massachusetts, the sick leave time taken must be paid (as opposed to unpaid) only if the employer has 11 or more employees.  However, the California law contains no such exemption for small employers.

In addition to the state-wide laws in Connecticut, California, and Massachusetts, employers should be aware of local ordinances requiring paid sick leave time.  San Francisco (2007), Seattle (2012), and New York City (2014) are just a few of the growing-number of cities to have passed such laws.  Because the specific provisions of these various state laws and local ordinances vary widely, it is important for employers to assess which (if any) of these laws actually apply to their business, and how their leave policies and practices may need to change in order to conform to any applicable law(s).

For additional information, please contact Tony Costello, Terry Potter, or Joe Orlet.