Paid Leave Podcast Shines Spotlight on Growing Trend

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, but federal action regarding paid family leave has remained very much elusive. And that inaction has led a growing number of states and cities to take action and go well beyond the FMLA.

New York recently began offering paid time off, joining a list that also includes California, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

Meanwhile, nine states and more than a dozen big cities now offer paid sick leave with Maryland and Austin, Texas being the newest jurisdictions to join the trend.

The Austin paid sick leave measure, slated to take effect October 1, 2018, marks the first law of its kind in the South. However, several Texas state legislators have vowed to pass a law to preempt the Austin measure so it remains to be seen whether it will come to fruition.

On a recent XpertHR podcast, Littler Mendelson employment attorney Casey Kurtz discussed the expansion of paid family leave at the state and local level, as well as other leave law issues. Kurtz co-chairs the firm’s Leaves of Absence and Disability Accommodation Practice Group.

With all of these varying laws, Kurtz notes that one option for multi-state employers is simply to follow the most generous approach. But there’s a catch. “A lot of employers aren’t prepared to do that because it’s a significant extension of resources that they’re expending toward sick pay,” says Kurtz. “What they’re left with is the option of making different entitlements available to different employees in different locations, and that creates a lot of challenges in terms of compliance.”

Paid leave measures continue to percolate in a host of state legislatures with Hawaii perhaps having the most momentum to pass a law, according to Kurtz. But significant movement at the federal level toward a paid leave law remains highly unlikely in the current Congress.

As for the number one employee leave question that Kurtz hears from clients, he says that’s easy – intermittent leave and the pressure it can put on an employer’s operations. He notes, for instance, that if someone needs intermittent leave on a “regular but unpredictable basis,” he or she can use FMLA leave for a full 12 months and still not exhaust their leave entitlement. What’s more, there is no undue hardship defense available for the employer.

Another increasing issue, Kurtz says, involves addressing intermittent leave use under the Americans with Disabilities Act when an employee has exhausted their FMLA leave entitlements.

For many more insights from Kurtz about the paid leave trend and other hot button employee leave issues, listen in to our XpertHR podcast.

What’s the most difficult leave law issue facing your company? Please let us know by leaving a comment below.

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