HR Support on Paid Sick Leave

Editor's Note: The patchwork of paid sick leave requirements continues to expand across cities and states.

Melissa Burdorf

Overview: In the past, providing paid sick leave was at an employer's discretion in the private sector. Now, a handful of states, plus more than two dozen municipalities across the country, have passed paid sick leave laws, with more on the way.

This means that an employer located in - or with employees located in - any state or city with a paid sick leave law needs to be taking every necessary step to ensure compliance. The job is even more difficult if the employer must comply with paid sick leave laws in more than one state or city. HR must understand the nuances of each applicable law and how the laws work together (or don’t) in order to effectively: 1) write policies; 2) establish procedures; and 3) guide management.

One of the major policy decisions an employer needs to consider is whether employees will accrue sick leave based on hours worked or will have the full bank of sick time frontloaded at the beginning of each year. Multi-jurisdictional employers need to decide whether to apply one policy to all locations (thereby providing the most generous leave benefits to employees) or to administer different policies depending on where employees work.

An employer needs a system for tracking each employee's hours worked in a covered location and sick leave accrued (if that is the approach used by the employer). An employer should also ensure employees receive proper - and timely - notice of their paid sick leave rights. In some jurisdictions, an employer must provide employees with their individual sick leave accrual and usage information.

Employees generally are protected from retaliation for requesting or using sick leave. Therefore, it is extremely important that managers not only understand the policies and procedures to follow when approached with a sick leave request, but also how a negative reaction to a sick leave request may be seen as illegal retaliation.

Trends: Many paid sick leave laws include so-called "safe" time provisions, which provide leave rights to employees affected by domestic and sexual violence. Under such laws, an employee may be entitled to take leave not only to receive medical care but also to attend court proceedings, relocate, obtain counseling or obtain services from a victim services organization.

Author: Melissa Burdorf, JD, Legal Editor

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