Paid Sick Leave Laws Sweeping the Nation

At the polls last week, Massachusetts, Oakland, California, and Montclair and Trenton, New Jersey voters approved measures instituting minimum paid sick leave requirements for workers.  Montclair and Trenton are the 7th and 8th cities in New Jersey to require paid sick leave for workers in their cities in the past year —Paterson, Passaic, East Orange, Irvington, Newark, Jersey City and  have already passed laws mandating paid sick leave, and New Jersey’s state lawmakers are currently considering a statewide paid sick leave measure.  California, Connecticut, Eugene, OR, Portland OR, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. also have paid sick leave laws on the books which have created a patchwork of laws multi-state employers must comply with.

Under the Massachusetts law, which goes into effect July 1, 2015, employers of 11 or more employees must provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year, while employers of 10 or fewer employees must provide up to 40 hours of unpaid sick leave per year.  Beginning July 1, 2015, employees will earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Employees may carry over up to 40 hours of unused sick time the next year, but cannot use more than 40 hours in a year.  Employees can use the sick leave for their own physical or mental illness, injury or medical condition or for that of their child, spouse, parent, or spouse’s parent, to attend routine medical appointments of their own or of their child, spouse, parent, or spouse’s parent, or to address the effects of domestic violence on the employee or the employee’s dependent child. 

Under the measures passed in Trenton [pdf] and Montclair [pdf], New Jersey, employees are entitled to accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.  Employers of 10 or more employees, or employers of food service, home health care, or child care employees, must provide up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year, while employers with 9 or fewer employees must provide up to 24 hours of paid sick time per year.  Paid sick time may be used for the employee’s own medical care or to care for the employee’s child, parent, parent of a spouse, domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, spouse of a grandparent, or sibling.  The Trenton and Montclair laws go into effect in early March 2015.

California’s state paid sick leave law, passed earlier this year, allows workers to earn up to three paid sick leave days per year, and specifically provides that it does not preempt local sick leave laws that have additional protections for workers.  Oakland’s paid sick leave measure [pdf] does just that—it provides that workers who work in the city of Oakland for at least two hours per week may accrue paid sick leave at the rate of one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked. Employers of 10 or more workers must provide up to 72 hours of paid sick leave per year, while employers of 9 or fewer employees must provide up to 40 hours per year.  Paid sick leave may be used for the employee’s own medical care or to care for the employee’s child, parent, parent of a spouse, domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, or another designated person if the person does not have a domestic partner.  Employees will begin accruing paid sick leave on March 2, 2015, several months before the California state law’s July 1, 2015 effective date.

In addition to requiring employers to provide employees with paid sick leave, these laws generally have specific notice and recordkeeping requirements.  Because the laws vary by jurisdiction and new laws are being passed at a rapid pace, companies should take care to ensure they are in compliance with current laws and any new laws that are passed. 

Minimum Wage Hikes

In addition to paid sick leave protections, voters in several jurisdictions voted to increase the minimum wage:

  • Alaska: $8.75 per hour beginning January 1, 2015, $9.75 per hour beginning January 1, 2016, thereafter indexed to inflation or $1 more than the federal minimum wage, whichever is higher
  • Arkansas: $7.50 per hour beginning January 1, 2015, $8.00 per hour beginning January 1, 2016, $8.50 per hour beginning January 1, 2017
  • Illinois: $10.00 per hour beginning January 1, 2015
  • Nebraska: $8.00 per hour beginning January 1, 2015, $9.00 per hour beginning January 1, 2016
  • South Dakota: $8.50 per hour beginning January 1, 2015, thereafter indexed to inflation
  • Oakland, CA: $12.25 per hour beginning March 2, 2015
  • San Francisco, CA: $12.25 per hour beginning May 1, 2015, $13.00 per hour beginning July 2016, $14.00 per hour beginning July 2017, $15.00 per hour beginning July 2018.

Numerous states have previously passed laws mandating annual minimum wage increases indexed to inflation.  Employers should review the minimum wage in their jurisdictions in the first of the year.