Effective July 1, 2015, California will mandate paid sick leave accrual for employees State-wide at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, allowing employers to cap employee use of paid sick leave to 24 hours (or three days), with accompanying notice and recordkeeping requirements. More information regarding California’s paid sick leave law can be found here.

California is not unique in this regard. Paid sick leave laws have gained momentum in 2014 nationwide. From 2006 to 2014, numerous states or localities passed paid sick leave laws, includingSan Francisco, Oakland, Seattle, Connecticut, and New York City. (More information regarding New York City’s paid sick leave law can be found here.) In 2014 alone, twelve states or localities passed paid sick leave laws, including California (State-wide), Oakland (CA), and Massachusetts. Some states have refused to endorse paid sick leave, adopting laws that prohibit local governments from establishing the right to paid sick leave, such as Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona. Because of efforts from grass-roots organizations, employers should expect numerous states and localities to address paid sick leave in the near future.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for multi-jurisdictional employers will be dealing with the laws’ various differences. Many of the laws differ in key areas, such as which employees are covered, how much sick time employees accrue, what sick leave can be used for, and whether sick leave can carry over from year to year. For instance, covered employees in Connecticut accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every forty hours worked, while covered employees in California and Massachusetts accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every thirty hours worked. Accordingly, employers with locations in multiple jurisdictions with paid sick leave laws will have to craft separate sick leave policies for each location.

Moreover, some locations will be governed by multiple paid sick leave laws. For example, employers who already provide paid sick leave under San Francisco’s ordinance, which was passed in 2006, will not necessarily be in compliance with California’s paid sick leave law. These employers will need to consider separate or harmonized policies that comply with the applicable local ordinance and state law.

As an alternative, employers can adopt an ERISA plan that covers PTO and sick leave benefits, by following certain regulatory protocol under ERISA. When done correctly, this can allow employers to have one uniform nationwide policy and pre-empt these various state and local sick pay ordinances.

Click here to read more on ERISA governed PTO and sick pay policies.


Employers should continuously monitor whether any of the jurisdictions in which they operate have passed paid sick leave laws. Most paid sick leave laws are broader in use, carry-over, and accrual rights than common PTO policies.

Given the differences in the laws, employers should review their policies, will likely need to broaden them in some way, and may need to craft separate sick leave policies, possibly for each location subject to a paid sick leave law.