WHAT QUALIFIES FOR PAID SICK LEAVE?
Generally, paid sick leave should be used by employees when they have contracted an illness. However, there may be other qualifying reasons to take paid sick leave. This includes:
- An employee’s injury
- A family member’s illness or injury
- Preventive care as a result of an illness or injury
- Maternity/paternity leave
- Reasons related to domestic violence, sexual violence, or stalking
However, some states or localities allow employees to take paid sick leave law for special reasons. These include:
- Provisions for the birth, care, placement, and/or adoption of a foster child
- Unexpected closure of school or childcare facility
- Any meeting regarding a child’s health
- School conferences or meetings
- Exposure to communicable disease
Interestingly, Oregon is the only state that allows employees to donate their paid sick leave hours to another co-worker if allowed by employer.
For more information on the details of your corresponding paid sick leave law, it is best to consult with an attorney specializing in employment law.
NOTABLE PAID SICK LEAVE LAWS IN STATES WITH CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAKS
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 47 states and Washington, D.C. have currently reported cases of Coronavirus. However, the majority of infections have occurred in a few select states: California, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington. Fortunately, for those infected who are forced into quarantine, all of these states offer mandatory paid sick leave on some level.
WASHINGTON PAID SICK LEAVE LAWS
The state of Washington has the highest number of Coronavirus cases in the country. With a lack of proper testing procedures and infections starting in nursing homes, the virus has spread rapidly and without much resistance.
Washington has the least restrictive paid sick leave laws in the nation. All employers and employees are covered under state law, with no restrictions on employer size or employee hours worked. Additionally, Washington provides no caps on maximum yearly usage – or on annual caps for hours accrued.
Seattle and Tacoma paid sick leave laws have some additional provisions restricting coverage based on employer size and employee hours worked. However, they remain unrestricted in terms of annual caps and maximum usage.
Interestingly, SeaTac Airport has its own special provisions on paid sick leave, covering employees in certain hospitality and transportation industry employers – but much like Seattle and Tacoma, they follow state-level recommendations on annual caps and maximum yearly usage.
NEW YORK PAID SICK LEAVE LAWS
New York is undergoing similar rapid infections, with Westchester County and New York City containing some of the largest clusters of Coronavirus cases in the United States.
Unfortunately, there are no paid sick leave laws at the state level for New York. However, New York City and Westchester County (the localities most affected by Coronavirus) have mandatory provisions that may provide some relief to those living in those jurisdictions.
New York City and Westchester County paid sick leave law states that all employers with five or more employees must offer paid sick leave to employees who work more than 80 hours annually. These covered employees accrue hours at a rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours of work, with hours capped at 40 hours for both annual accrual and usage.
Additionally, both jurisdictions also provide paid sick leave for domestic workers – those who provide services in care, housekeeping, and childcare. In order to qualify in NYC, domestic workers must work for the same employer for one year, on top of the 80 annual hours threshold. Additionally, domestic workers only qualify for two days of paid sick leave – considerably less than the 40 hours provided to all other employees.
CALIFORNIA PAID SICK LEAVE LAWS
California’s paid sick leave laws are fairly straightforward: employers with employees who work more than 30 days annually are covered, and those employees who work more than 30 days annually are covered as well. Additionally, employers may frontload hours at the beginning of the year if they wish. However, state law mandates a maximum usage of just 24 hours or three days, regardless of employer size – the lowest max usage of all other states.
Fortunately, the following California cities have their own local statutes that offer significantly more provisions regarding paid sick leave:
- Los Angeles
- San Diego
- San Francisco
- Santa Monica
MASSACHUSETTS PAID SICK LEAVE LAWS
Massachusetts recently had a sharp rise in Coronavirus cases due to a large cluster of cases arising from a larger conference in Boston held by Cambridge biotech company Biogen. As many as 70 of the 100+ reported cases in the state have been linked to those who attended the meeting.
Massachusetts state law dictates that all employers with more than 10 employees must provide paid sick leave for all employees. Paid sick leave accrues at a rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours of work – but it may also be frontloaded. Employees have paid sick hours capped at 40 hours in both accrual and usage every year.
PENDING PAID SICK LEAVE LITIGATION FOR CORONAVIRUS AND BEYOND
Despite the threat of a pandemic looming across the nation, and the potential for further unnecessary infections due to sick employees coming into work, paid sick leave laws remain incredibly unpopular to litigators across the county.
In response to the Coronavirus outbreak, federal and state governments have pushed for emergency legislation allowing paid sick leave to those who may have contracted the virus.
- Colorado recently announced that they would provide four paid sick days for those who are being tested for coronavirus. However, this would apply only to service workers – those working in hospitality, food services, and care industries.
- Kentucky has introduced a bill, SB 282, which enables paid sick leave for certain individuals in an event of a state of emergency.
- Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is currently advocating for the passage of a federal bill that would enable provisions such as covered testing and paid sick leave for all those who may have contracted Coronavirus.
THE FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT
On March 18, the federal government passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), a bill that requires specific employers to provide paid sick leave to those who have been impacted by COVID-19, effective April 1, 2020.
Under this act, all private employers with fewer than 500 employees must offer:
- Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at regular pay if the employee is unable to work because they are quarantined and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and awaiting a diagnosis,
- Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds pay if the employee is unable to work because they have to care for some who is quarantined, or they have to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed due to reasons related to coronavirus.
- Up to 10 weeks of additional paid family and medical leave at two-thirds pay if an employee who has been employed at least 30 calendar days is unable to work because they have to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed due to COVID-19-related reasons.
All employees are eligible for any qualified paid sick leave due to COVID-19-related circumstances. Under the FFCRA, these reasons include:
- is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
- has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19;
- is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
- is caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) or self-quarantine as described in (2);
- is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19; or
- is experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with
- the Secretaries of Labor and Treasury.
These provisions remain effective through December 31, 2020.
Although federal and local governments have passed a law approving national paid sick leave as a requirement, the fact remains that the act is not a permanent improvement to workplace conditions. In fact, it is noted that much of the legislation for paid sick leave is not a permanent change to federal and local laws, but only a temporary measure to prevent further spread of the disease. It remains to be seen whether Coronavirus will bring about more meaningful change to our employment laws – and work culture as a whole.