State and Local Paid Sick Leave Laws (Benefit Minute)

Posted in: Benefit Minute, Employee Benefits

Although there is no federal law that requires employers to offer paid sick leave to employees, legislators at the state and local level have passed laws mandating it. Currently, five states, twenty-nine cities, one county and Washington, DC require paid sick time for employees in their jurisdictions. The five states are California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Vermont. In addition, President Obama has issued an Executive Order that new federal contracts (entered into on or after January 1, 2017) include a requirement that contractors offer at least seven days of paid sick time to all employees working on the contract. These varying laws pose challenges for employers with employees in any of the jurisdictions, but especially for those with employees in multiple jurisdictions with paid sick time laws.

State & Local Laws

While the sick leave laws vary by jurisdiction, many share common provisions, including:

  • Availability of paid sick leave to care for an ill family member (although definition of covered family member varies);
  • Availability of paid sick time for “safe time” purposes related to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking;
  • Carryforward of accrued but unused sick time;
  • Minimum amount of paid sick time that must accrue annually;
  • Employee notice requirements (unless the leave is not foreseeable) and medical certification requirements;
  • Employer posting and notice requirements; and
  • Recordkeeping and anti-retaliation provisions.

Most state and local laws do not require that an employee be allowed to use paid sick time to bond with a new child or in connection with the death of a family member.

Examples of Local Sick Leave Laws

The Washington, DC law went into effect in 2008 and was amended in 2014. It applies to individuals employed by an employer within Washington, DC and requires accrual of sick time based on the following schedule:

  • 24 or fewer employees: one hour for every 87 hours worked up to 24 hours/year;
  • 25 to 99 employees: one hour for every 43 hours worked up to 40 hours/year; or
  • 100 or more employees: one hour for every 37 hours worked up to 56 hours/year.

Employees begin to earn sick time upon commencement of employment, but cannot use it until completion of 90 days of service. Unused sick time can be carried forward, but employers may limit annual usage to one year’s accrual (based on the above schedule). Sick time may be used to care for ill family members, including spouses, children, grandchildren, siblings, parents, domestic partners, and spouses of any family members.

The Montgomery County, Maryland law is effective October 1, 2016 and applies to Montgomery County workers who regularly work more than 8 hours/week. Sick time is earned as follows:

  • 4 or fewer employees: 32 hours of paid sick time and 24 hours of unpaid sick time; or
  • 5 or more employees: 56 hours of paid sick time.

Employees begin to earn sick time upon the later of commencement of employment or October 1, 2016, but can be required to wait 90 days before using it. Employees are generally entitled to carry forward up to 56 hours of unused sick time, and may use up to 80 hours in a year (if available). Employers that award the full annual amount at the beginning of each year are not required to allow a carryforward of unused amounts. Sick time may be used to care for sick family members including spouses, children, grandchildren, parents, siblings and their spouses.

Federal Contractors

The Executive Order for federal contractors applies to new, renewed or extended contracts on or after January 1, 2017, but does not apply to the unilateral exercise of a pre-negotiated option to renew an existing contract. It requires employees working on a wide range of federal contracts where the wages of the employees are covered by the Davis-Bacon Act, the Service Contract Act or the Fair Labor Standards Act to accrue one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked (including hours paid for other types of leave), up to 56 hours per year. Under the DOL’s proposed rules, all unused accrued sick time must be carried forward. Contractors are not required to pay employees for unused sick time upon termination of employment, but unused time must be reinstated if an individual is rehired by the contractor or a successor contractor within 12 months of termination. Covered employees may use sick time for family members and others with whom the employee has the “equivalent of a family relationship.” Contractors will be required to provide a written denial (with explanation) if paid sick leave is not approved. The DOL’s final regulations to implement the Executive Order will be published in the near future.

Impact on Employer Leave Policies

The proliferation of state and local paid leave laws makes it challenging for employers to administer a consistent paid leave policy. Those that offer generous paid time off policies must still ensure that existing programs meet the requirements of the jurisdictions where there are employees. Those with restrictive paid time off policies must carefully analyze the minimum requirements of each jurisdiction with employees to confirm that paid sick time is being offered in compliance with the requirements.

© PSA Insurance and Financial Services. Group insurance products offered through PSA Financial, Inc. The Benefit Minute provides general information for your reference.
Please see your benefits consultant to review your specific situation.


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