Employment Law Experts Brief Business Leaders on Paid Sick Leave Mandate

09.01.2011
Small Business

More clarification needed before Jan. 1 effective date

By Bill DeRosa

On July 19, more than 170 business owners and HR managers gathered at the Crowne Plaza in Cromwell to gain a clearer understanding of the state’s new paid sick leave mandate. This workshop and a second program held in Shelton the next day were conducted by CBIA in response to widespread employer concern about the new law.

“Since the mandate was passed, we’ve received numerous calls from members needing clarification on their obligations,” says workshop panelist Mark Soycher, HR counsel at CBIA. “The high turnout reflects the level of concern and confusion employers are experiencing. We wanted to provide them an opportunity to speak directly with state Department of Labor officials who will be responsible for enforcing the new law and mediating disputes.” Soycher’s fellow panelists were Heidi Lane, principal attorney in the DOL’s Office of Program Policy, and Jennifer Devine, staff attorney III at the DOL.

A Work in Progress

It was clear from the program that employers are not the only ones with questions about the new legislation.

“DOL is still sorting out the details of the law, and we may not have all the answers immediately,” said Lane. “There are many issues not addressed in the statute that will be open to interpretation.”

Lane assured participants, however, that the DOL would have written guidance on their website in advance of the law’s Jan. 1 effective date.

The mandate requires that non manufacturing companies with 50 or more employees provide a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours an employee works, up to a maximum of 40 hours per calendar year. Covered employees can carry over up to 40 hours of accrued leave into the next calendar year but are not entitled to use more than 40 hours. The leave can be used for several reasons, including for the care of a spouse or child.

“The carryover just means that employees won’t have to start all over in accruing time at the beginning of the year,” said Devine in response to one of the many questions about the carryover provision.

The law covers hourly and salaried non-exempt workers in any of 68 service occupations listed in the legislation, including data processors, restaurant and food service workers, security guards, and front desk personnel.

To use accrued paid sick leave, a service employee must have worked for the employer for at least 680 hours and an average of at least 10 hours a week in the most recent complete calendar quarter.

Employers already offering benefits comparable to the law’s provisions would be in compliance but should check the bill or call the DOL or CBIA to be sure their current policies match up with the new mandate. (See below for more information.)

Legislation Meets Real Life

Throughout the workshop, hands went up as the panelists summarized key sections of the law. Questions centered on real workplace scenarios: for example:

  • If a company has separate manufacturing and R&D facilities, are service employees in the R&D facility covered under the law? “We’re still unclear on that,” said Lane.
  • Do workers who quit or are terminated have to get compensated for unused sick leave? No, as long as an employer’s written policy states that such compensation is not available.
  • Can employers place restrictions on the increments in which employees take sick leave? No. For example, an employee who requests two hours of sick leave every Friday afternoon for a purpose covered under the law must be allowed that time. But, says Lane, “You shouldn’t be afraid to talk to the employee to say ‘we’ve noticed this pattern and we’re watching it.'”

Questions about paid sick leave? Contact any of the following:

For answers to frequently asked questions, click here.

Bill DeRosa is editor of CBIA News. He can be reached at bill.derosa@cbia.com.

 

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