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Paid sick days standards are emerging across the country. View a chart summarizing the key points in existing laws here.
Here’s a quick overview:
At present, many government employees have access to paid sick days. All states provide paid sick days to at least some state employees, and the federal government provides 13 paid sick days a year to its more than 2.6 million full-time employees that can be used for self- or family-care.
Additionally, nine states — California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin — allow at least some workers who already have paid sick days to use them to care for certain family members. Some of these laws provide this right only to workers with seriously ill family members, while others permit flexible use of sick leave for family members with routine illnesses.
Connecticut is the only state in the nation with a statewide paid sick days law that allows a significant share of workers in the state to earn paid sick days to recover from illness, seek medical care, or care for a sick child or spouse.
Seattle, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco have laws that allow workers to earn paid sick days to recover from a short-term illness, care for a sick family member or seek routine medical care. The Washington, D.C., and Seattle laws also include paid "safe" days that provide earned leave that allows survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking to seek services related to these violent incidents.
In 2013, Portland, Ore., New York City and Jersey City, N.J., adopted paid sick days laws that will go into effect in 2014.
In September 2013, the Jersey City Council approved a citywide paid sick days law, which Mayor Steven Fulop signed into law in October. This makes Jersey City the seventh jurisdiction in the country to adopt a paid sick days law. When it takes effect in January 2014, Jersey City workers at businesses with 10 or more employees will have the right to earn up to five paid sick days, and workers at smaller businesses will have the right to earn up to five unpaid but job-protected sick days. Workers will be able to use the job-protected leave to recover from illness, care for an ill family member or seek medical care for themselves or a family member, as well as in the case of a public health emergency.
In June 2013, the New York City Council approved the Earned Sick Time Act, voting to override Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto of the bill. Under the Earned Sick Time Act, all businesses will be required to provide one hour of sick leave for every hour worked, up to 40 hours annually (approximately five days for a full-time worker). At businesses with 20 or more employees (15 or more beginning in 2015), the 40 hours of sick leave will be job-protected and paid; leave at smaller businesses will be job-protected but unpaid. Workers can use the job-protected leave to recover from illness, care for an ill family member or seek medical care for themselves or a family member, as well as in the case of a public health emergency. “Family member” is defined as a child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, or the child or parent of a spouse or domestic partner. The law will take effect in April 2014 and be fully implemented (with paid sick time for workers in businesses with 15 or more employees) in October 2015.
In March 2013, the Portland City Council passed and Mayor Charlie Hales signed the city’s earned sick days law, Ordinance 185926. Under the law, workers in businesses with more than five employees earn one hour of paid, job-protected sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours annually (approximately five days for a full-time worker). Businesses with five or fewer employees earn one hour of unpaid, job-protected sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours annually. Leave can be used to recover from illness, care for an ill family member, or address the effects of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking of a worker or a minor child or dependent. “Family member” is defined as a child, spouse, domestic partner, grandchild, parent, grandparent, parent-in-law or a person with whom the worker is or was in an in loco parentis relationship. The law will take effect in January 2014.
In September 2011, the Seattle City Council passed and Mayor Michael McGinn signed the city’s paid sick days law, Ordinance 123698. Implemented in September 2012, the law allows all workers in the city to earn paid sick time to use for their own illness; injury or preventive care; for the health needs of a family member; to deal with the consequences of domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking; or if their place of business, or their child’s school or place of care, is closed due to a public health emergency. “Family member” is defined as a child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law or grandparent. Workers in businesses with 49 or fewer full-time employees can earn up to five days of paid sick time annually, workers in businesses with between 50 and 249 full-time employees can earn up to seven days, and workers in larger businesses can earn up to nine days.
In June 2011, the Connecticut General Assembly passed the nation’s first statewide paid sick days bill. Governor Malloy signed it into law in July 2011. Many workers at businesses with 50 or more employees can earn one hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked (approximately five days annually for a full-time worker). Paid sick days can be used to recover from illness or seek medical care, or to care for a sick child or spouse. Victims of sexual assault or family violence can also use the time to seek related assistance. The law applies to hourly, non-exempt service workers including those in health care, restaurant and food service, janitorial services and building maintenance, child care, hospitality, retail, transportation and other industries. Time began accruing in January 2012 and is available for use after 680 hours of employment. Although other existing and proposed laws provide coverage for more workers, the Connecticut law is historic in its statewide reach and ensures that hundreds of thousands of workers who previously could not earn paid sick days are guaranteed time off when illness strikes.
In March 2008, the Washington, D.C. City Council unanimously passed legislation guaranteeing workers paid sick time. Under the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act, workers in businesses with 24 or fewer workers earn up to three days of sick leave annually, workers in businesses with between 25 and 99 workers earn five days, and workers in businesses with 100 or more workers earn seven days. This paid leave can be used to recover from illness, care for sick family members, seek routine or preventive medical care, or to obtain assistance related to domestic violence or sexual assault. Amendments — including exemptions for some restaurant workers, as well as workers in the first year of their jobs — reduced some of the bill’s intended effect, but more than 100,000 workers who did not previously have paid sick time now have it, including many low-wage workers. The D.C. law was also the first in the United States to include paid “safe” days for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
In November 2006, the voters of San Francisco passed a ballot initiative that made their city the first jurisdiction in the country to guarantee paid sick days to all workers. The measure received overwhelming support, winning 61 percent of the vote. Under San Francisco’s law, workers earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. Workers in businesses with 10 or fewer employees may earn up to five paid sick days annually, while workers at larger businesses can earn up to nine days. Workers can use paid sick time to recover from an illness, attend doctor visits, or care for a sick child, partner or designated loved one.
In November 2008, voters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, passed a measure (with 69 percent of the vote) to guarantee paid sick days for all workers in the city. A lawsuit filed by the Chamber of Commerce postponed implementation of the law for more than two years. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals ultimately upheld the paid sick days ordinance and ordered the City of Milwaukee to implement the law. Before implementation could occur, however, the Wisconsin state legislature passed a preemption law that prevents local governments from instituting paid sick days standards, nullifying the Milwaukee ordinance.
The Wisconsin preemption law was the first to restrict local authority to enact paid sick days laws. Several other preemption laws have been passed in states in 2012 and 2013. Read more here.