The Emergence of Paid Sick Leave Laws

In last week’s blog entry, Lynne Anne Anderson highlighted the increasing number of states that mandate employers to provide school related unpaid leave for parents.  This week’s entry looks at another growing trend in the employee leave space, paid sick leave.  An increasing number of states and localities now provide paid sick leave. It is important that both employers and employees are aware of this trend and whether these laws apply to their locality or state.

The following states (and District of Columbia) have paid sick leave laws:

State: Coverage/Eligibility: Amount of Paid Sick Time: Can Sick Time Be Used to Care for Loved Ones:
Connecticut Hourly workers in certain “service” occupations who work for businesses with 50 or more employees. [1] Up to 40 hours per year Yes: children and spouses.
California Workers employed in California for 30 or more days a years, including state and local public workers. [2] Workers can earn up to 48 hours or 6 days but an employer isn’t required to allow use of more than 24 hours or 3 days a year. Yes: children, parents, grandchildren, grandparents, spouses, registered domestic partners and siblings. 
Massachusetts Workers employed in Massachusetts who do not work for cities and towns. Workers in businesses with 11 or more employees up to 40 hours of paid sick time a year.  Yes: children, spouses, parents, or parents of a spouse.
Oregon Workers employed in Oregon, including public workers but excluding independent contractors. Workers in businesses with at least 10 or more employees: up to 40 hours of paid sick time a year. Yes: children, spouses, same-sex domestic partners, parents, parents of a same-sex domestic partner, grandparents, and grandchildren.
Washington, D.C. Individuals employed by an employer within Washington D.C. [3] 24 or fewer employees: up to 24 hours a year.25-99 employees: up to 40 hours a year.

100 or more employees: up to 56 hours a year.

Yes: children, grandchildren, spouses of children, siblings, spouses of siblings, parents, and registered domestic partners.
Vermont Workers employed by an employer in Vermont for an average of no less than 18 hours per week during a year.  [4]  From 1/1/17-12/31/18: up to 24 hours a year. After 12/31/18: up to 40 hours a year.   Yes: children, parents, parents-in-law, grandparents, spouses, grandchildren and siblings.

As demonstrated by the above chart, paid sick leave laws vary from state to state and it is important to know the detail of the laws that apply to your business. For example, the coverage/eligibility requirements, use of sick time to care for loved ones, and the amount of paid sick leave available are different for each of the states with paid sick leave laws.  Other differences include the rate that paid sick leave is earned, whether paid sick leave can be carried over to subsequent years, and whether paid sick leave applies to care for a new born child.  As an example, in Connecticut, sick time is earned at a rate of one hour for every forty hours worked, whereas in California, sick time is earned at a rate of one hour for every thirty hours worked.  Additionally, Oregon’s law is the only one that allows the use of paid sick leave to bond with a newborn child.  [5]  The bottom line for business is if you operate in a state with a paid sick leave law, it is important to carefully review the law and make sure your policies conform to its requirements.

Beyond states, several cities and counties have paid sick leave laws, including the following: Montgomery County (MD), San Francisco, Seattle, New York City, New Jersey Eleven (Newark, Passaic, East Orange, Paterson, Irvington, Trenton, Montclair, Bloomfield, Jersey City, Elizabeth, and Plainfield), Oakland (CA), Tacoma, Philadelphia, Emeryville (CA), Pittsburgh, Spokane, Santa Monica (CA), Minneapolis (effective date July 1, 2017), and Chicago (effective date July 1, 2017).  As with the state paid sick leave laws, the eligibility requirements, amount of sick leave available, and how that sick leave can be used differ from locality to locality and require individualized analysis.

Even if your business does not operate in a locality that currently has a paid sick leave law, it is increasingly likely that your state or locality may soon consider such a law.  The combination of the growth of paid sick leave laws and their prominence in policy discussions surrounding support for families continues to build momentum for their adoption in more communities.  Currently, New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington have paid sick leave legislation that is under consideration and there is growing support for these laws in numerous other states.

Employers should stay tuned and follow these developments to ensure that their sick leave policies and procedures stay compliant in the ever changing world of leave laws.

[1] For a full list of which professions are covered “service” occupations go to

[2] Workers subject to the Railway Labor Act (i.e. employees of airlines and railroads) are exempted. Workers who provide in-home supportive care are exempted until July 1, 2018.

[3] The following individuals are exempted: independent contractors, students, health care workers choosing to participate in a premium pay program, unpaid volunteers. 

[4] The following individuals are exempted: workers under 18 years of age; workers employed for 20 or fewer weeks in a year in a job scheduled to last 20 or fewer weeks; certain State workers excluded from the State classified service; certain employees who work on a per diem or intermittent basis at a health care or long-term care facility; certain per diem or intermittent workers who only work when indicating availability, have no obligation to accept the work, and have no expectation of continued employment; certain substitute educators for a school district or supervisory district/union if under no obligation to work a regular schedule or period of long-term (30 or more consecutive school days) substitute coverage; and certain sole proprietors/partner owners of an unincorporated business.

[5] California has a paid family leave law that provides paid leave for the care of a newborn child. 


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