Q: Which employers must provide paid sick leave benefits?

A: The law defines “employer” as any person, firm, business, educational institution, nonprofit agency, corporation, limited liability company or other entity that employs 50 or more individuals in the state in any one quarter in the previous year. The law also applies to the state and municipalities with 50 or more employees.

Q: Are there any types of employers that are excluded from the law?

A: Yes. "Employer" does not include any business establishment classified in sector 31, 32 or 33 in the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS), or any nationally chartered organization exempt from taxation under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 that provides all of the following services: recreation, child care and education.

The exclusion for manufacturers extends to include all forms of manufacturing, including food, textiles, wood, petroleum, chemical, plastics, metal, machinery, motor vehicles, aerospace, computer, electronic, and miscellaneous products. The exclusion for manufacturing establishments extends only to the sites at which manufacturing operations are conducted and not to other locations in the state, such as research and development or a warehouse, that are not engaged in manufacturing activities.

Q: How do I determine whether my company has 50 or more employees?

A: An employer determines if it meets the annual 50-employee threshold based solely on the number of employees on its payroll for the week containing October 1. For example, if an employer has 50 employees on its payroll on Monday, September 28, 2015, it must provide paid sick leave in 2016.

It is unlawful for an employer to fire, dismiss, or transfer an employee in order to avoid meeting the 50-employee threshold.

Q: Which employees qualify for paid sick leave?

A: Full or part-time service workers are entitled to paid sick leave benefits. Service workers are defined in a list of more than 60 job titles and functions, including data processors, restaurant and food service workers, security guards, and front desk personnel.

Employees not eligible for paid sick leave include those in positions properly classified as exempt under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (as opposed to under Connecticut law).

Employers also are not required to provide paid sick leave to “day or temporary workers,” defined as those who perform work on a per diem basis or an occasional or irregular basis, for only the time required to complete the work, whether they are paid by the person for whom such work is performed or by an employment agency or temporary help service.

Q: Are service workers who work part-time eligible for paid sick leave?

A: Yes, part-time service workers are eligible for paid sick leave with the limited exception of those working an average of fewer than 10 hours per week in the prior quarter

Q: What paid sick leave benefits must an employer provide?

A: Employers are required to allow workers to accrue 40 paid sick leave hours in a single calendar year, equivalent to five work days.

Unused paid sick leave may be carried over to the next calendar year, but workers are not entitled to use more than five days in any single year.

Q: When can the sick leave be used?

A: Service workers cannot begin using accrued paid sick leave until completion of 680 hours of employment, counted from January 1, 2012, if employed on or before that date, or counted from the service worker’s date of employment if hired after that date.

The law does not specify how the 680 hours of employment is to be measured (i.e., hours actually worked or simply hours employed).

Service workers must have worked an average of at least 10 hours a week in the most recently completed calendar quarter to be eligible to use accrued paid sick leave time.

Q: If an employer allows an employee to use paid sick leave before it has accrued, does that leave count against the law’s entitlement?

A: An employer may agree to allow employees to use accrued paid sick leave prior to completion of 680 hours of employment. The law does not address the effect of an employer’s advancing paid sick leave on the paid sick leave entitlement, but, because doing so will be viewed as an additional benefit, such a practice is likely to be permissible.

Q: At what pay rate must an employer pay accrued sick leave?

A: An employer must pay the service worker for paid sick leave at the worker’s normal hourly wage or the minimum wage, if higher. If the service worker's hourly wage varies based on the duties performed, the “normal hourly wage” is the average hourly wage paid the employee in the pay period prior to the leave.

Restaurant employees who are paid a tipped rate that is below the minimum wage must be paid the minimum wage for paid sick leave time off.

Q: Are employers required to pay accrued but unused sick leave upon termination?

A: No, unless an employer policy or collective bargaining agreement provides otherwise.

Q: Does a rehired employee regain formerly accrued paid sick leave?

A: No, unless the employer agrees otherwise.

Q: What may paid sick leave be used for?

A: A service worker may use paid sick leave for his or her, or a spouse's or child's:

  • illness, injury, or health condition
  • medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition
  • preventive medical care

A “child” is an employee's biological, adopted, or foster child, stepchild, legal ward, or a child of an employee acting instead of a parent, when the child is either under 18 years old or over 18 but incapable of self-care due to mental or physical disability. This is the same definition as under the Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Act.

A “spouse” means a husband or wife.

A service worker also may use paid sick leave when the service worker is a victim of family violence or sexual assault for:

  • medical care or psychological or other counseling for physical injury or disability;
  • services from a victim services organization
  • relocating
  • participation in any civil or criminal legal proceedings

Q: What if an employee uses paid sick leave for a purpose not allowed by law?

A: Employers are not prohibited from taking disciplinary action against a service worker who uses paid sick leave for purposes other than those described by the law.

However, employers may not require employees to produce documentation substantiating the reason for taking paid sick leave unless the employee is out of work for three consecutive days

Q: What are an employee’s notice requirements for using paid sick leave?

A: Employers may require service workers to provide up to seven days’ notice before taking the leave, if it is foreseeable, or notice as soon as practicable if it is not foreseeable.

Employers may be able to deny leave or even take disciplinary action against an employee who fails to comply.

It's important that employers include call-in and other notice requirements in their policies.

Q: May an employer require documentation to ensure that the leave is being used for its intended purpose?

A: For paid sick leave of three or more consecutive days, an employer may require reasonable documentation. In such cases, for mental or physical illness, treatment of an illness or injury, mental or physical diagnosis, or preventive medical care for the service worker or the employee's child, or spouse, an employer may require documentation signed by the health care provider treating the service worker or the service worker's child or spouse, indicating the need for the number of days of the leave.

For a victim of family violence or sexual assault taking leave of three or more consecutive days, an employer may require a court record or documentation signed by an employee or volunteer working for a victim services organization, an attorney, police officer, or other counselor involved with the service worker.

Q: My company already provides paid sick leave. How does this law affect our policy?

A: An employer that provides sick leave or “other paid leave,” such as vacation, personal days or paid time off (PTO), is “deemed to be in compliance” with the paid sick leave aspect of the law if: (a) service workers can use the leave for the purposes enumerated in the law; and (b) leave accrues at a rate equal to or greater than the rate described in the law.

The law does not provide any further explanation of this “safe harbor” or the interplay between an employer’s own policies and the paid sick leave law. What is clear is that employers seeking to rely on this “safe harbor” must reconcile their existing paid leave policies with the requirements of the paid sick leave law with respect to its application to service workers.

For example, for leave requested or taken for reasons enumerated in the law, the policy cannot exclude part-time service workers, cannot delay accrual of leave until completion of an introductory period, cannot impose greater notice or documentation requirements, cannot require that leave be taken in minimum increments and the request or use of leave for covered reasons cannot lead to disciplinary or other adverse job action.

Once an employee uses 40 hours of paid leave for reasons covered by the law, the employer should be deemed to have fully complied with its obligations and should thereafter be able to attach conditions or take disciplinary action in accordance with its policies.

Q: How is the law enforced?

A: Any employee may file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner. After a hearing, an employer found to have violated the law shall be liable for a civil penalty as follows:

  1. Up to $100 for each violation of the general provisions of the bill;
  2. Up to $500 for each violation of the retaliation provision.

The Labor Commissioner can award the employee all appropriate relief, including payment for used paid sick leave, rehiring or reinstatement to the employee's previous job, payment of back wages, and reestablishment of benefits for which the employee was otherwise eligible if not for the retaliatory personnel action or being discriminated against.

Aggrieved parties can appeal the Commissioner's decision to Superior Court.