In April 2007, a petition was filed to start the process of placing a new statute before the Ohio General Assembly and, if necessary, Ohio voters. The Healthy Families Act (“HFA”), would require employers of 25 or more employees to provide seven days of paid sick leave per year to employees. If, as expected, the 120,683 signatures necessary to submit the bill to the Ohio General Assembly are obtained, the General Assembly will have four months during which to vote on the HFA. If the General Assembly fails to do so, the organizers will have 90 days to collect new signatures to place the HFA on the November 2008 ballot. If you are thinking, “my company already provides that much paid time”, don’t stop reading…it’s not that simple!

The HFA seeks to guarantee full-time employees at least seven days of paid sick leave each year and part-time employees working 30 hours a week (or 1560 hours annually) a prorated amount of time. For current employees, leave will accrue from the date of enactment. For employees hired after enactment, the accrual will run from the employee’s hire date. After the initial 90 days, the employee would be able to use any accrued paid sick days for any illness, medical appointments, related treatment, or preventive care for the employee or employee’s child, parent, or spouse. Employees would also be able to carry over any unused sick days each year.

For any foreseeable leave, the employee would be required to provide at least seven days notice to the employer. If the leave is not foreseeable, then the notice must only be given as soon as practicable, once the employee becomes aware of the need for leave. A troubling provision for employers limits the employer’s ability to require a medical certification for sick leave to only those absences in which the employee misses three consecutive work days. The employee would have 30 days to provide the certification.

If enacted, employers will be prevented from reducing or eliminating any leave benefit in existence at that time, regardless of the type of such leave (e.g., after enactment, employers could not maintain the total amount of leave available to employees by reducing the amount of vacation leave offered to employees by the amount of increased sick leave needed to comply with the HFA.

Employers are also forbidden from discharging or discriminating against an employee for using this sick leave or for complaining about any unlawful practice under the HFA. Additionally, employers are prohibited from counting paid sick leave as an occurrence under a no-fault attendance policy, and they may not use paid sick leave usage as a negative factor for evaluating employees or applicants for hiring, promotion or discipline. Employers likely will need to amend their no-fault attendance policies or add a layer of tracking if the employer offers Paid Time Off in lieu of sick leave.

Although it is likely that this issue will not be on the ballot until the November 2008 Presidential election, you should know that the initial public polls have it passing if put to the electorate.