Catch up on paid sick leave legal changes

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If you're finding it hard to keep up to date with changes in sick leave laws, you're not the only one. Paid sick time legislation has been evolving rapidly on every level of government, making it a maze for employers with telecommuting workers or offices in more than one city.
 
Portland, Oregon is the latest city to enact changes, but it's not alone in its move to stand by paid sick leave for workers: Connecticut, New York City, Jersey City, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington DC have all passed similar laws. Meanwhile, ten states have banned local governments from enacting similar ordinances to enforce paid sick leave, prompting heated battles with paid-sick-leave proponents.

Paid sick time around the nation
  • Connecticut Most employers with 50 or more employees must offer workers one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked in Connecticut, capped at 40 hours a year
  • New York City From April 1, 2014, most employers with 20 or more workers in NYC must offer one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked in NYC, capped at 40 hours a year. From October 1, 2015, the law applies to employers with 15 or more workers
  • Jersey City Employers with 10 or more employees must offer one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked in Jersey City, capped at 40 hours a year
  • San Francisco All employers must offer one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked in San Francisco, capped at 72 hours for businesses with 10 or more employees, and 40 hours for businesses with fewer than 10 employees
  • Seattle Businesses with 4-49 employees must offer all employees 1 hour of sick time for every 40 hours worked, capped at 40 hours a year, while businesses with 50-249 employees have the same accrual rate but face a higher cap of 56 hours. If a business has 250 or more workers, the workers accrue 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, capped at an even higher 72 hours
  • District of Columbia Businesses with 24 or fewer employees must provide an hour for every 87 hours worked, capped at three days per year. Businesses with 25-99 employees must provide an hour for every 43 hours worked, capped at five days. And if an employer has 100 or more workers, employees will receive an hour of paid sick time for every 37 hours worked, and a total of not more than seven days a year
States that have banned local governments from enforcing paid sick time
  • Georgia
  • North Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Missouri
  • Kansas
  • Indiana
  • Florida
  • Arizona
  • Wisconsin
  • Louisiana
According to attorney Ryan Gibson, the laws make offering telecommuting less attractive to employers, as companies must track the specific locations of employees while they're working to be sure they’re compliant with local sick-leave laws.

"It is on the employer to know where their employees are working. It's going to be a headache because it's a city ordinance and not a state law," Gibson said of the Portland ordinance. "[Take] delivery truck drivers or construction workers who move from project to project... it's only the time that they're in metro Portland that counts."

For employers with staff in Portland, it's time to get on top of the city's new Protected Sick Time ordinance. The legislation ensures most full-time employees have at least 40 hours a year of paid sick leave, but only accrue those hours when they work within metropolitan Portland. Any global company with workers who telecommute, or even have occasional meetings or conferences in the city, will need to know about the changes.

Key changes for companies with any employees spending time in Portland
  • Employers with six or more workers must offer one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours of work performed in Portland by full-time employees
  • Employees must be allowed to use their sick time to care for family members' illnesses as well as their own
  • Employees must be allowed to carry over sick time if they do not use it all in one year
  • Employers do not need to provide extra paid sick leave if they already have a policy that offers at least 40 hours of sick leave a year
  • Employers may only ask for medical certification if the absence is three or more consecutive business days

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