Paid Sick Leave Laws at the State and Local Level

Author: Melissa Burdorf, XpertHR Legal Editor

Outside of Executive Order 13706, which applies to federal contractors and subcontractors, federal law does not require private employers to provide employees with paid sick leave (or unpaid sick leave for that matter). In the absence of a federal law, many states and localities have taken up the reins.

Complying with the patchwork of laws can be difficult, since the requirements for each law may differ, even within the same state. XpertHR offers the following tools and resources to help an employer stay current on applicable paid sick leave laws and meet compliance requirements.

Know Which Laws Apply

First and foremost, an employer must be aware of whether a state and/or local paid sick leave law applies to its organization. Some laws provide a carve-out for very small employers, in which such employers are not required to comply with the law at all; other laws allow small employers to provide unpaid sick leave only or provide small employers with more time than larger employers before compliance begins.

Understand Applicable Requirements

In order to comply with paid sick leave laws, an employer must understand what each applicable law requires. Variations in the laws run the gamut from which employees are eligible for paid sick leave to the qualifying reasons for taking paid sick leave (e.g., safe leave covers absences related to domestic violence, sexual abuse and stalking) to employee and employer notice requirements, and more.

The paid sick leave trend creates extra compliance difficulties for multijurisdictional employers. In addition, an employer must understand how paid sick leave requirements interact with related federal, state and local leave laws.

Communicate With Employees

Most laws require an employer to notify employees of their rights under the law, usually in the form of a poster, handbook policy and/or new-hire notice.

Implement Policies and Procedures

Even if the law does not specifically require an employer to create a paid sick leave policy, it is a good practice to do so. An employee handbook policy allows an employer to provide its employees with detailed information on their rights and obligations, such as when and how they may request paid sick leave. An employer that operates in locations in which different paid sick leave laws apply will need to decide how best to handle the laws' variations in its handbook.

Stay Current

An employer should never be complacent that its current paid sick leave policies and practices are up to date or that its jurisdiction will not pass a paid sick leave law. It must stay current on new developments, such as:

  • Brand new laws requiring paid sick leave;
  • Amendments made to existing laws;
  • The passage of implementing regulations; and
  • The publication of FAQs, model policies and other guidance by the relevant government agency.

In a bit of good news for employers, some states' preemption laws prohibit cities and counties from passing local paid sick leave laws, with some state paid sick leave laws even going as far as preempting existing local laws.

In addition, recently enacted laws may be subject to legal challenges, the outcomes of which determine whether or not the law will take effect at all. In the meantime, though, a covered employer should still take steps and prepare for the law to take effect.