Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy is expected to sign into law “An Act Mandating Employers Provide Paid Sick Leave To Employees.” Under the Act—which will go into effect on January 1, 2012—employers who had fifty or more employees in Connecticut in any one quarter in any prior year must provide paid sick leave to their service employees.
Who Are Service Employees?
Service employees generally include most employees in the various service industries, including, but not limited to, food services, health and beauty services, and office services. Nonetheless, the Act does not apply to those service workers who are: (1) not paid on an hourly basis; (2) exempt from minimum wage and overtime compensation requirements; (3) day workers (i.e., on a per diem basis); or (4) temporary employees.
How Much Sick Leave Must Employers Provide And How Does It Accrue?
Under the Act, employers must provide service employees with at least one hour of paid sick leave for every forty hours the employee works, up to a maximum of forty hours of paid sick leave per calendar year. Such paid sick leave will begin to accrue on January 1, 2012 for current employees, and immediately upon hire for those employees hired after January 1, 2012. However, unless the employer agrees otherwise, current employees cannot use such leave until they have worked 680 hours after January 1, 2012, and employees hired after January 1, 2012 cannot use such leave until they have worked 680 hours. Employees are entitled to carry over up to forty unused accrued hours of paid sick leave to the following calendar year.
Under What Circumstances Can Employees Use Paid Sick Leave?
Under the Act, eligible service employees may only use accrued paid sick leave for the following reasons: (1) the employee’s or spouse’s or child’s illness, injury or health condition, medical diagnosis, care, or treatment, or preventative medical care; or (2) where the employee is the victim of family violence or sexual assault, for treatment to obtain services from a victim services organization, to relocate due to such family violence or sexual assault, or to participate in any related legal proceedings. Employers can require employees to provide advance notice of their use of paid sick of no more than seven days, if the use is foreseeable. If the use is not foreseeable, employers may require employees to provide notice as soon as practicable. Moreover, if an employee intends to use three or more consecutive days of paid sick leave, employers may require them to provide reasonable documentation—such as documentation signed by a health care provider, police officer, or attorney—confirming that the employee is taking the leave for a permitted purpose.
What If An Employer Already Provides Paid Leave?
If an employer provides other paid leave—such as paid vacation, personal days, or paid time off—and if that paid leave, or a combination of other paid leave, (1) may be used for the purposes describe above and (2) accrues in total at a rate equal to that described above, the employer will have complied with the new law.
Does The Act Contain Any Other Requirements?
Yes. In addition to the foregoing, the Act prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against employees for: (1) requesting or using paid sick leave in accordance with the Act; or (2) filing a complaint with the Labor Commissioner alleging that the employer violated the Act. The Act also contains a notice requirement. At the time of hire, employers must provide service employees with notice: (1) of their entitlement to paid sick leave, the amount of such leave provided to service workers, and the terms under which they may use such leave; (2) that an employer may not retaliate against them for requesting or using paid sick leave; and (3) that they have the right to file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner about any employer violation. Employers can comply with the notice provision by displaying a poster providing this notice in a conspicuous, accessible place, in both English and Spanish.
Are There Any Penalties For Noncompliance?
Yes. Violations of the Act can result in civil penalties of between $100 and $500 per violation. Moreover, the Labor Commissioner may award aggrieved employees “all appropriate relief,” including payment for use of paid sick leave, rehiring or reinstatement, back pay, and reestablishment of benefits.