Below is a summary of some of the issues the Saint Paul task force will take on, with notes on what has been done around the country.
Most of the information in this post comes from a very useful chart put together by staff for the City of Minneapolis. Staff noted that this document, which was handed out at the February 8 meeting of Minneapolis’ Workplace Partnership Group, is a working draft and will likely need updates. Other information comes from A Better Balance’s Overview of Paid Sick Time Laws in the United States.
Take a look, then make your opinions heard! You can apply to serve on Saint Paul's Earned Sick and Safe Time Task Force; attend a community conversation on the issue; and provide comments in the City's survey.
Scope: Which employers are covered?
Most jurisdictions apply their policy to all employers, though provisions may differ based on the size of the employer. For example, New York’s policy applies only to employers with 5 or more employees, and requires that smaller employers provide unpaid sick time. In addition, some specifically note that only employers operating within the jurisdiction are covered. Many provisions differ depending on the number of employees at an employer.
Scope: Which employees are covered?
Most provisions contain some type of minimum work requirement, such as that the employee work at least 2 hours per week, or 40 (Philadelphia), 80 (New York), or 240 (Portland) hours per year. Almost every jurisdiction excludes some workers, such as: employees covered by collective bargaining agreements, temporary workers, independent contractors, students, employees working less than 8 hours per week, government employees, employees who telecommute outside of the jurisdiction, and seasonal workers. Seattle also includes a two year exemption for new small and medium sized employers.
Usage: Who can be the sick person?
These policies all apply to the employee themself when ill. All also cover some family. Connecticut is currently the most limited, covering only the employee’s spouse and child. The others vary in their expanse and include some of these: spouse, child, parent, legal guardian, children’s spouse, grandparent, grandparent’s spouse, parents of a spouse or domestic partner, grandchild, and sibling. Some include a designated person of the worker’s choice if the employee has no spouse or domestic partner, or a person sharing residence with the employee for at least 12 preceding months. Emeryville CA includes care for a service dog.
Usage: What is a covered reason?
All enacted policies currently cover physical illness, mental illness, injury, and condition. Many also cover “safe time,” which is used in critical safety situations, such as domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. For example, in Seattle employees can use safe time to relocate, seek a restraining order, or participate in a legal proceeding.
Usage: How is it accrued?
Accrual of 1 hour of paid sick and safe time for every 30 hours worked is the most common policy. Other policies include: 1.33 hours for every 40 hours worked, 1 hour for every 40 hours worked, and a breakdown of hours accrued based on the number of employees. For example, DC’s policy mandates 1 hour accrued for every 87 hours worked for employers with 24 or less employees, 1 hour accrued for every 43 hours worked for employers with 25-99 employees, and 1 hour accrued for every 37 hours worked for employers with 100 or more employees.
The state of California’s policy allows for two accrual options: Employers can choose the common 1 hour for every 30 hours worked accrual rate, or the employer can provide the employee with the full amount of hours available at the beginning of the year.
Usage: Does it need to be documented for the employer?
The most common provision allows the employer to require documentation if sick time is used past three consecutive days, and some allow for more documentation requirements if the employer suspects abuse. Seattle employers who offer health insurance pay 50% of the cost for documentation. Connecticut allows employers to require “reasonable documentation” and also allows the employer to require advance notice of up to 7 days if the leave is foreseeable. Some jurisdictions do not address this at all. Seattle requires a police report for safe time.
Usage: When does an employee start to accrue time?
This ranges from immediately upon start of employment to after 90 days of employment. Oregon also lets employers opt to front load 40 hours of sick time at the beginning of the year, or track the employee’s hours worked.
Usage: When can an employee access their accrued time?
After 90 calendar days of employment is the most common waiting period, though the range is 0 (immediately upon accrual) to after 180 days of employment
Usage: Is there a cap on the number of hours an employee can accrue or use?
Most policies limit accrual, ranging from 24 hours per year to 72 hours per year.
California is currently the only jurisdiction to limit the number of sick hours an employee can use (24 hours in one year).
Accrual: Can employees carry over hours from year to year?
All current policies allow for some yearly carryover, up to the yearly cap or another amount set by the employer. In Philadelphia, employers who provide “front loaded” time do not need to allow carryover.
Accrual: What about employers who offer Paid Time Off (PTO)?
Every policy except that of Montgomery County MD makes some reference to employers who offer PTO, which can be used for vacation or sick leave. For most, if an employer already offers PTO or sick leave that meets the requirements of the paid sick time policy, the employer does not need to make any changes to its policy. California also has a “grandfather” policy, where some employers will be considered to be in compliance if they met certain standards prior to the policy’s adoption. Oregon uses the language that employers are in compliance if their plan is “substantially equivalent” to the minimums of the law.
Private Right of Action: Can an employee bring a legal action against the employer directly?
Jurisdictions are pretty evenly split on whether or not an individual can bring a legal action. This is allowed in Massachusetts, Oregon, DC, San Francisco, and NJ, and is not allowed in New York City, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Connecticut, or Montgomery County.
Enforcement: What agency enforces the mandate?
A wide variety of agencies have authority to enforce these ordinances, including: State Department of Labor, State Attorney General, State Bureau of Labor and Industries, County Office of Human Rights, City Department of Employment Services, City Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, City Office for Civil Rights, City Department of Child and Family Well-Being, City Department of Human Services, City Department of Neighborhood Services, City Finance Director, and the City Controller.
Remember to make your opinions heard! You can apply to serve on Saint Paul's Earned Sick and Safe Time Task Force; attend a community conversation on the issue; and provide comments in the City's survey.