Sick Leave is Contagious

Although there is no federal law covering sick leave, there is a growing movement on the state and municipal level to require employers to provide sick leave to their employees.  So far, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Washington DC, Jersey City, New York City and the states of Connecticut and California (see below) have sick leave laws.

Laws vary by municipality, but they typically calculate sick leave on an accrual basis based on hours worked, and take into account the size of the company.  “Sick leave” can be used for personal illness or to assist a sick family member, or for reasons of domestic violence.

Here are a few highlights:

  • San Francisco:  the first city to enact such a law, in 2007.  Employees accrue 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, with a cap on total hours depending upon the size of the employer.  (UPDATE:  The State of California has passed a paid sick leave law effective January 1, 2015).
  • New York City:  Employees of businesses with 5 or more workers get up to 5 paid sick days per year, starting April 1, 2014.
  • Jersey City, NJ:  employees of companies with 10 or more employees accrue 1 hour of paid sick leave for each 30 hours worked, capped at 40 hours.  Employees of companies with less than 10 employees are eligible for unpaid sick leave.
  • State of Connecticut:  Sick leave covers employers with 50 or more employees and only applies to “service workers,” such as food service, cashiers, retail and health care workers.  Sick leave accrues at the rate of one hour for each 40 hours worked up to a maximum of 40 hours per year.
  • Portland, OR:  Employees working for employers with 5 or fewer workers will receive unpaid sick leave at the rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours per year.  If the employer has 6 or more employees, employees receive paid sick leave at the same accrual rate.
  • Seattle, WA:  Sick leave applies to all employers with more than 4 full-time equivalent employees.  In addition to the usual reasons for sick leave, employees may use sick leave if their business has been closed by order of a public official for health reasons.
  • Washington, DC:  different levels of paid sick leave accrual are offered to all employees depending on company size, from 1 hour for every 87 hours worked for employees of companies with 24 or less employees, to 1 hour for every 37 hours worked for employees of companies with 100 or more employees.

With all these laws being passed, it may surprise you to learn that according o the US Department of Labor, 74% of full-time workers and 24% of part-time employees are already covered by company paid sick leave policies.  There are no statistics for unpaid sick leave, although the Family and Medical Leave Act requires employers of 50 or more employees to provide unpaid leave.  Many smaller employers act on a case-by-case basis.

Check your policies and Employee Handbook to see if you are up to date with the sick leave requirements in your place of business.  Don’t have an Employee Handbook?  Look here for more information.

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