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You are Here: Home > Blog > Paid Sick Leave Update

Employee Rights Blog

Employee Rights and Related Matters

Paid Sick Leave Update

Monday, February 16th, 2009

States and Municipalities

Milwaukee recently became the third municipality to pass legislation requiring employers to provide employee paid sick leave benefits. 69 percent of Milwaukee voters approved the new legislation on November, 4, 2008, despite strong opposition by business groups.

Update: On February 6, 2009, a Milwaukee circuit court granted a temporary injunction prohibiting enforcement of the Milwaukee Sick Leave Ordinance until the court ruled on its validity. Then, on June 12, 2009, the court granted a permanent injunction. The Ordinance was initially scheduled to go into effect on February 10. For more background information, see Paid Sick Leave Ordinance.

San Francisco was the first among U.S. municipalities and states to pass paid sick leave legislation for employees. The City’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance went into effect on February 5, 2007.

San Francisco started a national paid sick leave movement, but the legislative wheels turn slowly. At this writing, only the municipalities of Washington, DC and Milwaukee have followed San Francisco’s lead, while no state has.

The states of California, New Jersey and Washington have passed paid family leave legislation for employees to care for sick relatives, or to bond with newborns or newly adopted children; but, no state has yet passed paid sick leave legislation for employees to care for themselves.

However, several states are at least considering new paid sick leave laws and some of those are close to passing the related bills. Meanwhile, the Feds are considering similar legislation as indicated below.

Family Leave Insurance Act

The House of Representatives is considering the Family Leave Insurance Act of 2008. If the Act becomes federal law, it will require certain employers in all states to provide paid family and medical leave benefits to eligible employees.

Some sources have indicated that it’s a done deal; but, it probably will see little to no Congressional action until the new administration takes office in 2009. President-Elect Barack Obama has indicated that he favors federal paid sick leave legislation.

Update: On March 25, 2009, the House of Representatives reintroduced the FLIA as the Family Leave Insurance Act of 2009 (H.R.1723). See the blog post Family Leave Insurance Act for general information about this pending paid sick leave law.

Family and Medical Leave Act

The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers who employ 50 or more employees, to
provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of sick leave annually to care for themselves or family members.

The FMLA does not require employers to provide sick pay to employees while on FMLA leave; however, if passed, the Family Leave Insurance Act mentioned above will amend the FMLA to change that.

In the meantime, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published a final rule regarding military family leave under the FMLA. The FMLA now provides for unpaid military family leave as follows.

  • 12 weeks of unpaid family leave for a qualifying emergency arising from the active military duty of a son, daughter, spouse or parent
  • 26 weeks of unpaid family leave to care for a son, daughter, spouse, parent, or next of kin who was seriously injured or became seriously ill during active military duty

The final rule also tightens eligibility requirements and responsibilities for employees and their family members in need of care. See the blog post New Rules for Family and Medical Leave for more information.

Healthy Families Act

Congress has yet to pass the bill referred to as the Healthy Families Act, which Senator Kennedy introduced in 2005 and reintroduced in 2007.

Update: Representative Rosa DeLauro reintroduced the Healthy Families Act (Bill H.R. 2460) in the House on 5/18/2009, just before Senator Edward Kennedy reintroduced it in the Senate (Bill S.1152) on 5/21/2009.

If and when the Healthy Families Act becomes federal law, it will require employers in all states who employ 15 or more employees to grant minimal paid sick leave to employees, so that employees may care for themselves or family members.

Section five (Sec. 5) of the Act defines minimal paid sick leave as one hour for every 30 hours worked, accruing up to an annual maximum of 56 hours (seven, eight-hour paid sick days). Employees will begin accruing paid sick leave their first day on the job and will become eligible to use it after 60 days of employment.

Employers may increase accrued sick leave to more than 56 hours annually—but don’t count on it, as many oppose the Healthy Families Act for the obvious reason.

To urge your state’s Congress members to pass the Healthy Families Act, you may send a message to them in support of the Act through the National Partnership for Women & Families.

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