On June 3, 2011, the Connecticut House of Representatives passed a bill (Public Act No. 11-52) that will require employers with 50 or more employees to provide service workers with up to five days of paid sick leave per year. The governor of Connecticut has indicated that he will sign the bill into law, thus making Connecticut the first state to mandate paid sick leave for employees.
Employers Affected by the New Law
Beginning in 2012, employers that employ 50 or more employees in Connecticut will be required to provide paid sick leave for service workers. However, employers in the manufacturing sector and non-profit organizations that provide recreation, child care, or education services are exempt from the new law.
For purposes of determining whether an employer is covered by the law in a given year, on January 1 of each year, the employer determines whether it employed 50 or more employees in Connecticut during any quarter of the previous year. The number of employees is calculated by the quarterly employer wage reports that the employer must, by law, submit to the state. All employees are counted, not just those employees who are covered by the law (see “Employees Entitled to Paid Sick Leave” below). If the employer employed more than 50 employees during any such prior quarter, then the employer is subject to the law for the entire following calendar year.
An employer is deemed in compliance with the law if the employer offers any other paid leave (such as vacation, personal days, or paid time off) that may be used for any required purpose (see “Use of Accrued Sick Leave” below) and that is accrued at a rate equal to or greater than the rate required by the new law.
Employees Entitled to Paid Sick Leave
An employer must provide paid sick leave for “service workers.” Service workers are non-exempt hourly employees employed in certain enumerated occupations, such as cooks, tellers, office clerks, secretaries, and security guards.
An employer is not required to provide paid sick leave for salaried employees, day laborers, temporary workers, or independent contractors. In addition, the law does not preempt or override the terms of any collective bargaining agreement in effect prior to January 1, 2012.
Accrual of Sick Leave
Beginning January 1, 2012, service workers will accrue one hour of paid sick leave for each 40 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours of paid sick leave per year. Employees are permitted to carry over up to 40 hours of unused sick leave to subsequent years, but are not entitled to use more than 40 hours of sick leave per year.
Use of Accrued Sick Leave
Covered employees can begin to use accrued paid sick leave after completing 680 hours of employment, measured from the later of January 1, 2012 or the employee's date of hire. Unless the employer's policies or a collective bargaining agreement provide otherwise, an employee will forfeit any unused sick leave upon termination of employment.
An employer must permit a covered employee to use paid sick leave for the following purposes:
- Illness, injury, or health condition of the employee, his or her spouse, or child
- The medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition of the employee, his or her spouse, or child
- Preventative medical care of the employee, his or her spouse, or child
- In the event the employee is a victim of family violence or sexual assault, the employee may use sick leave for medical care or psychological or other counseling for physical or psychological injury or disability, to obtain service from a victim services organization, to relocate due to such family violence or sexual assault, or to participate in any civil or criminal proceedings related to or resulting from such family violence or sexual assault
Notice of Intent to Use Sick Leave
An employer may require that a covered employee provide up to seven days advance notice of his or her intent to use paid sick leave if the leave is foreseeable (if the leave is unforeseeable, on the other hand, the employer can only require the covered employee to provide notice as soon as practicable).
If a covered employee is on leave for three or more consecutive days, the employer may require reasonable documentation, such as a doctor's note, that such leave is being taken for a permitted purpose.
Employer Notice Requirements
An employer must, at the time of hiring, provide a notice to each covered employee that:
- Describes the employee's entitlement to sick leave, the amount of sick leave provided, and the terms under which such leave may be taken
- Acknowledges that retaliation against the employee for requesting or using sick leave is prohibited and that the employee may file a complaint with the Connecticut Labor Commissioner for violations of the law
Employers can meet this requirement by displaying a poster in conspicuous place, accessible to service workers, at the employer's place of business that contains the information required above in both English and Spanish.
Penalties for Violations of the Law
An employee who believes that his or her employer is violating the law may file a complaint with the Connecticut Labor Commissioner. If an employer is found to have violated the law, the employer will be subject to a civil penalty of up to $100 per violation. In addition, the employee may be awarded other relief such as unused paid sick leave, reinstatement, and back wages.
Employers may not retaliate or discriminate against any employee who requests or uses paid sick leave or who files a complaint with the Connecticut Labor Commissioner. An employer who is found to have engaged in such behavior will be subject to a civil penalty of $500 per violation.
What Employers Should Do
Employers that employ individuals in Connecticut should start considering now whether they will be subject to the new law. If they are, then leave policies and employee handbooks may need to be revised to comply with the new law effective January 1, 2012. In addition, the employer will need to ensure that it has prepared the required notice to provide to new hires, whether as part of the new hire packet or as a poster. Finally, human resources personnel and managers may need to be trained about the new law.