Legal Updates

Employers Need To Be Mindful Of Local Paid Sick Leave Laws

As of September 1, 2012, a new ordinance in Seattle, Washington, requires most employers to provide paid sick leave to employees who work in the city.  The Seattle ordinance is the latest in a growing number of paid sick leave measures that have been adopted by various localities across the United States.  Thus, employers need to monitor these developments closely and ensure that they are in compliance with any applicable paid sick leave laws.

Seattle Ordinance

Under the new Seattle ordinance, all employers – regardless of location – with at least five full-time equivalent (“FTE”) employees must offer “paid sick and safe time” (“PSST”) to employees who work in Seattle.  Sick time includes leave taken because of an employee’s own health condition or to care for a family member.  Safe time refers to leave taken for certain reasons related to domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault, or because of the closing of an employee’s workplace or a child’s school or day-care facility due to a health hazard.

Employees working in Seattle are eligible for PSST after six months of employment, as follows:

  • For employers with at least five but fewer than 50 FTEs, employees must be permitted to accrue at least one hour of PSST for each 40 hours worked, and to use up to 40 hours of accrued PSST per calendar year.
  • For employers with at least 50 but fewer than 250 FTEs, employees must be permitted to accrue at least one hour of PSST for each 40 hours worked, and to use up to 56 hours of accrued PSST per calendar year.
  • For employers with more than 250 FTEs, employees must be permitted to accrue at least one hour of PSST for each 30 hours worked, and to use up to either 72 hours (if an employer maintains separate sick-leave and vacation banks) or 108 hours (if an employer has a combined or universal leave policy) of PSST per calendar year.

Notably, the ordinance does not require that an employee’s primary work location be within Seattle for the employee to be covered.  Employees who perform more than 240 hours of work within the city during a calendar year are covered by the ordinance, even if their primary work location is outside Seattle.  Thus, if an employer located outside of Seattle (or, indeed, outside of Washington State) assigns an employee to a long-term project in Seattle, the employer may be required to make PSST available to the employee in accordance with the ordinance.

Other Paid Sick Leave Laws

In addition to Seattle, various other localities across the United States have enacted paid sick leave laws within the past few years:

  • San Francisco.  A San Francisco ordinance requires that employees who work in the city be permitted to accrue at least one hour of paid sick leave for each 30 hours worked.  The San Francisco ordinance applies irrespective of where an employer is located, but the time must be worked within the city in order to be included in the calculation.  Employers with fewer than ten employees must permit employees to have at least 40 hours of accrued time in their sick leave banks at any time.  For employers with at least ten employees, this number increases to 72 hours.
  • Philadelphia.  Under a Philadelphia ordinance, various categories of employers – including the City of Philadelphia, certain city contractors, certain employers that receive funding or aid from the city, and employers with more than 25 employees that obtain city leases, concessions or franchises – are obligated to provide paid sick leave to employees.   Employers with between five and 11 employees must offer employees up to 32 hours of paid sick leave per year, while employers with more than 11 employees must provide up to 56 hours of paid sick leave annually.  Employers with fewer than five employees are not covered by the ordinance.
  • Washington, D.C.  A District of Columbia law requires all employers located within D.C. to provide paid sick leave to employees.  Employers with fewer than 25 employees must provide up to three paid sick days per year.  Employers with at least 25 but fewer than 100 employees must provide up to five paid sick days per year.  Finally, employers with at least 100 employees must provide up to seven paid sick days per year.
  • Connecticut.  A Connecticut statute requires most employers with 50 or more employees in the state to allow “service workers” to accrue up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year.

Recommendations For Employers

In light of the new Seattle paid sick leave ordinance and similar laws in other localities, it is important that employers:

  • Ensure that they are in compliance with all applicable paid sick leave requirements;
  • In consultation with counsel, update their written policies, employee handbooks and other personnel documents as necessary to comply with such laws; and
  • Continue to monitor future developments in this area.  In this regard, similar paid sick leave laws have been proposed in New York City and in several other states, including Massachusetts.

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Please contact us if you have any questions regarding the Seattle ordinance, other paid sick leave laws, or any other leave issue.  We regularly counsel employers on such matters, and we would welcome the opportunity to assist you.