As state governments across the country scramble to plug large holes in their own budgets, they are digging deeper into employers' pockets.  Earlier this week, the Connecticut General Assembly passed legislation that will require employers within the service sector (and with more than 50 employees) to provide paid sick leave to their employees, making the state the first in the country to pass such legislation.  (The Connecticut governor has indicated his signature soon will follow.)

As reported by Daniel Schwartz in the Connecticut Employment Law Blog, "service" workers within the state will accrue 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours or 5 business days.  According to the New York Times, the legislation will cover approximately 200,000 to 400,000 workers, including waiters, cashiers, fast-food cooks, hair stylists, security guards and nursing home aides.  However, it exempts manufacturers, nonprofits, as well as salaried workers, independent contractors, temporary workers and day laborers.

Employees will be able to carry over up to 5 days paid sick leave each year.  Under the legislation, employees would be able to use paid sick leave for their own or their child's or spouse's health condition; medical diagnosis, care or treatment of a health condition; or preventative medical care.  Paid sick leave also could be utilized for time off if the employee is a victim of family violence or sexual assault.

Insights for Employers

A few municipalities have enacted paid sick leave legislation (San Francisco in 2006; Washington D.C. and Milwaukee in 2008), but Connecticut is the first state to do so.  And as reported by the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, even more cities and states are poised to make the jump to mandatory paid leave for employees.  Other states, like California, have considered similar proposals (the latest bill would have mandated seven paid days), but do not yet have the votes to pass such legislation.  Notably, the National Partnership for Women and Families reports (pdf) that 20 cities and states currently are considering some form of paid sick leave for employees. 

At a time when Congress has stalled in passing legislation to broaden the Family and Medical Leave Act, many states appear ready to take the baton and run with it.  Employers across the country should be mindful of sick leave legislation pending in their own state to determine how such legislation might impact their business.