If you are a Retail Employer with stores or distribution centers in Connecticut, who does not already provide paid sick leave to your employees, you may now be required to do so. On June 8, 2011, Governor Daniel Malloy signed into law An Act Mandating Employers Provide Paid Sick Leave To Employees (the "Bill"), Public Act No. 11-52, which made Connecticut the first state in the nation to require that employers provide "service workers" with paid sick leave. Beginning on January 1, 2012, the Bill requires certain employers with fifty or more employees to provide "service workers" with forty hours of paid sick leave a year. The Bill broadly defines service workers but many of the covered job titles fall within the Retail industry. The Bill includes very broad anti-retaliation provisions which protect not only service workers but rather all employees seeking paid sick leave pursuant to a Company policy. Therefore, if a Retail employer with 50 or more employees already has a paid sick leave policy, they too are prohibited from retaliating against any employee who requests sick leave pursuant to that policy.

Connecticut Employers Required to Provide Paid Sick Leave

The Bill applies to any person, firm, business, educational institution, nonprofit agency, corporation, limited liability company or other entity. However, certain manufacturing entities and tax-exempt nationally chartered organizations which provide services in recreation, child care, and education are exempt. As such, the Bill applies to most Retail employers in Connecticut who employ fifty or more individuals.

Who Qualifies as a Service Worker?

The Bill broadly defines "service worker" as an hourly nonexempt employee who is primarily engaged in one of 68 job titles identified by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Within that list, the following are employee titles we often find in the Retail industry:

  • Bakers
  • Building and Cleaning Workers, All Others
  • Butchers and Other Meat, Poultry and Fish Processing Workers
  • Cashiers
  • Counter and Rental Clerks
  • Computer Operators
  • Cooks
  • Couriers and Messengers
  • Data Entry and Information Processing Workers
  • Desktop Publishers
  • Fast Food and Counter Workers
  • First Line Supervisors of Sales Workers
  • Food Preparation Workers
  • Food Servers, Nonrestaurant
  • Food Service Managers
  • Janitors and Cleaners, Except Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners
  • Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses
  • Mail Clerks and Mail Machine Operators, Except Postal Service
  • Misc. Food Preparation and Serving Related WorkersMisc. Food Processing Workers
  • Misc. Office and Administrative Support Workers
  • Office Clerks, General
  • Office Machine Operators, Except Computer
  • Pharmacists
  • Receptionists and Information Clerks
  • Retail Salespersons
  • Secretaries and Administrative Assistants
  • Security Guards
  • Supervisors of Food Preparation and Serving WorkersTellers
  • Waiters and Waitresses

When Can A Service Worker Use Paid Sick Leave?

The Bill permits a service worker to use paid sick leave (i) for his or her own illness, injury or health condition; (ii) for his or her child's or spouse's illness, injury or health condition, or (iii) where he or she is a victim of family violence or sexual assault, to seek medical care or counseling; to obtain services from a victim services organization; to relocate due to the assault; or to participate in any civil or criminal proceedings related to the assault.

Service Worker and Employer Notification Requirements

If you are a covered Retail employer in Connecticut, the Bill requires that you provide notice to each service worker when you hire them that they are entitled to paid sick leave, that you will not retaliated against them for requesting such leave and that they have a right to file a complaint with the Connecticut Labor Commissioner for any violations. You may display a poster, written in both English and Spanish, in a conspicuous place to satisfy those obligations.

You may require the employee to provide up to seven days of advance notice if the leave is foreseeable, and if not, you may require notice as soon as possible. For paid sick leave that lasts three or more consecutive days, you may require reasonable documentation from a health care provider, court record or victim services organization.

Paid Sick Leave Accrual and Pay Rate

You must provide one hour of paid sick leave for each forty hours worked, up to a maximum of forty hours per calendar year. Service workers are entitled to carry over up to forty hours of paid sick leave from year to year but they cannot use more than forty hours in a calendar year.

You must pay a service worker their accrued sick leave once they have completed 680 hours of employment from their date of hire, unless you agree to an earlier date. However, you need not pay such sick leave if they did not work an average of 10 or more hours a week in the most recent calendar quarter.

When your employee requests a sick leave, you must now pay him the greater of their normal hourly wage or the state minimum wage at the time they use their sick leave.

Unlike vacation pay, you need not pay service workers for their unused accrued sick leave when you terminate them unless you have an employee policy or collective bargaining agreement which provides for such payment. If you terminate a service worker, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, it is considered a break in service. If you later rehire them, you need not recognize any previously accrued unused hours of paid sick leave unless you have agreed to do so.

Anti-Retaliation Provision Applies Not Only to Service Workers But All EmployeesThe Bill prohibits you from retaliating against service workers who request paid sick leave but it also protects all employees, even those who are not service workers, if they request leave pursuant to the Company's paid sick leave policy. Any employee who files a complaint with the Connecticut Labor Commissioner alleging violations of the Bill is also protected.

Employers Face Civil Penalties For Violations

If you fail to provide the requisite sick leave, you will incur a civil penalty of up to $100 for each violation, and if you retaliate against an employee for exercising his or her rights under the statute, you will incur a civil penalty of $500 for each violation.

Employer Exemption

If, however, you already offer your Connecticut employees at least forty hours of any "other paid leave" that may be used in lieu of sick leave like paid vacation, personal days or paid time off, you will be exempted from providing any additional paid sick leave.

Practical Considerations

If you are a covered Retail employer with facilities in Connecticut, and you have fifty or more employees there, we recommend that you immediately amend your personnel policies and procedures to ensure that you begin compensating for sick leave by January 1, 2012. In the unlikely event that you do not employ anyone who falls within the broad definition of "service worker," you should make sure you do not retaliate against employees who request or use paid leave under your own policies.