Maybe we should start calling it ‘chic’ leave, since it’s all the rage right now.  Tacoma and Philadelphia are the latest municipalities to require private employers to provide employees with sick leave.  They join three states (California, Connecticut and Massachusetts) and fifteen other municipalities (D.C.; Oakland and San Francisco, CA; East Orange, Irvington, Jersey City, Montclair, Newark, Passaic, Paterson and Trenton, NJ; New York, NY; Eugene and Portland, OR; and Seattle, WA) that have passed sick leave laws.  Dozens of other states and municipalities are looking to follow suit, as legislators across the country heed President Obama’s call to require employers to provide paid sick leave to employees.  Chicago might be next in line—voters yesterday overwhelmingly approved a non-binding sick leave referendum to require employers there to provide employees with paid leave in the event of a personal or family illness, an incident of domestic or sexual violence, or a school or building closure due to a public health emergency.

As we have reported previously, in his State of the Union address last month, President Obama urged Congress to pass legislation providing paid sick leave for all employees.  While some municipalities, such as San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C. and Connecticut, have had paid sick leave laws on the books for years, 2014 saw a huge uptick in the number of sick leave laws that were passed, either by voters or by legislators.  Companies operating in multiple jurisdictions are left scrambling to stay abreast of the new laws and implement the required changes, a task made more difficult by the fact that the laws can vary significantly between jurisdictions. 

For example, the Philadelphia sick leave law [pdf] requires private employers of ten or more employees to provide paid sick leave to all employees who work in Philadelphia for at least 40 hours in a year, while employers of nine or fewer employees must provide unpaid sick leave to employees meeting the 40 hour requirement.  Notably, the Philadelphia law specifies that it does not extend to independent contractors, seasonal workers, adjunct professors, employees hired for a term of less than six months, interns or pool employees.  Under the law, employees may accrue (and use) up to 40 hours of sick leave per year.  The law also notes that any sick leave provided is in addition to any unpaid leave available under Philadelphia Code section 9-3200 [pdf], which requires employers to give leave to employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.  The Philadelphia sick leave law goes into effect on May 13, 2015. 

The Tacoma law [pdf], on the other hand, requires that employers provide paid sick leave to all employees who work in the city of Tacoma for at least 80 hours in a year, but employees may only accrue (and use) up to 24 hours of paid sick leave per year. The Tacoma law is also the only sick leave law that allows employees to use their accrued paid sick leave for bereavement purposes.  The Tacoma law goes into effect on February 1, 2016.

While employers have almost a year to prepare for the Tacoma law to go into effect, many of the laws passed by voters last fall have either already gone into effect, or will become effective shortly, so make sure your company is ready.  Oakland’s law goes into effect on March 2, while Montclair and Trenton’s laws go into effect on March 5.  They are followed by Philadelphia (May 13), then California, Massachusetts and Eugene (July 1, although the Eugene law’s effective date may be delayed if the state of Oregon passes a statewide sick leave measure).

Sick leave legislation is currently pending in about a dozen states and Montgomery County, MD.  On the other side of the fence, Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Wisconsin have all passed laws that pre-empt any city’s ability to pass a local paid sick leave law, although state-wide legislation is still a possibility (as in Arizona).