August 4, 2005
PAID FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE OR MANDATED DISABILITY BENEFITS
By: Janet L. Kaminski, Associate Legislative Attorney
You asked if any New England state mandates (1) paid family and medical leave or (2) disability benefits while on leave. You also asked if any bills were introduced in Connecticut on this topic in past sessions.
No New England state mandates paid family and medical leave or disability benefits for those on a family or medical leave, based on our on-line research. Legislators have twice introduced bills in Connecticut concerning paid family and medical leave: HB 5368 (2004) and HB 5619 (2000). In 1991, a legislator introduced a bill to provide temporary disability benefits to workers on family or medical leave (HB 5879). A copy of each bill is enclosed.
FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE IN NEW ENGLAND STATES
Each New England state has a law regarding family and medical leave. Each is based upon or mirrors the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requirements, including the provision that leave may be unpaid. None requires paid leave or disability benefits while on leave. (See, CSG § 31-51l(d); Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 26, § 844; Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 149, § 52D; N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 275:43-b; R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-48-2; and Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 21, § 472.)
FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE ACT
Connecticut's FMLA requires most private sector employers with 75 or more employees to provide leaves, which may be unpaid, to their employees under specified circumstances. These circumstances include the birth or adoption of a child; if an employee has a “serious health condition” or needs to care for a family member with such a condition; or to serve as an organ or bone marrow donor. A “serious health condition” is an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that requires (1) inpatient care in a hospital or certain other health care facilities or (2) continuing treatment, including outpatient treatment, by a doctor or other health care provider. Eligible employees are entitled to a total of 16 weeks of leave during any 24-month period. This law does not apply to municipal employees and public and private school employees (CGS § 31-51kk, et seq.). A similar law applies to state employees, who are eligible for up to 24 weeks of unpaid leave during any two-year period (CGS § 5-248a).
The federal FMLA provides for a leave of up to 12 weeks in any 12-month period. The leave may be unpaid. The federal law applies to all private employers with more than 50 employees. It also applies to public sector employers, so long as 50 employees work within 75 miles of the worksite of the employee seeking to take leave (29 USC § 2601, et seq.).
CONNECTICUT BILLS INTRODUCED
Unpaid Family and Medical Leave
HB 5368 (2004 Reg. Sess.). In 2004, the Commerce Committee introduced HB 5368, An Act Providing For Paid Family Leave by Certain Companies and Establishing a Related Tax Credit, which received a public hearing, but died in committee. The bill provided for four weeks of paid leave in any 12-month period.
HB 5619 (2000 Reg. Sess.). In 2000, the Labor and Public Employees Committee introduced HB 5619, An Act Concerning Paid Family and Medical Leave, which provided a qualified employee 12 weeks of cash benefits while on leave. Upon referral, the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee reported a joint favorable substitute that required the Office of Policy and Management secretary to hire a consultant to study the costs and benefits of providing wage replacement to Connecticut employees who take family and medical leaves of absence from their jobs. The House then referred the bill to the Legislative Management Committee, where it died.
Temporary Disability Benefits
HB 5879 (1991 Reg. Sess.). In 1991, Representative Taborsak (D-109th) introduced HB 5879, An Act Establishing a Temporary Disability Insurance Fund for Certain Employees (i.e., those who take family or medical leave). The House originally referred the bill to the Insurance and Real Estate Committee and later referred it to the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, which took no action.