OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 601 (File 220, as amended by Senate “A”)*

AN ACT MANDATING EMPLOYERS TO PROVIDE PAID SICK LEAVE TO EMPLOYEES.

SUMMARY:

This bill requires all employers with 50 or more employees to provide their employees with paid sick leave accruing at a rate of one hour for each 40 hours worked. Once they have been employed for 120 days, employees are eligible to use the time and are entitled to use up to 52 hours of accrued sick leave a year. The leave can be used for an employee's illness, treatment of an illness, diagnosis, and preventive medical care. It can also be used for reasons related to the employee being a victim of family violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Current law does not require employers to provide sick leave, whether paid or unpaid.

The bill bans any employer from taking retaliatory action or discriminating against an employee because the employee requests or uses paid sick leave as provided in the bill.

The bill allows complaints to be filed with the labor commissioner. Employers found in violation of the bill's provisions are liable to the Labor Department for a civil penalty of $ 600 for each violation. The labor commissioner may award appropriate relief including rehiring and payment of back wages or attorney's fees and costs. Parties may appeal the commissioner's decision to Superior Court. An employee who wins an appeal must be awarded attorney's fees and costs.

The commissioner may develop related regulations requiring employers to provide employees with notification of the bill's benefits.

*Senate Amendment “A:

1. changes, from 25 or more employees to 50 or more, the size of the employers the bill covers;

2. increases, from 90 to 120, the number of days of work needed before an employee is eligible to use mandatory paid sick leave;

3. entitles an employee to take the amount of paid sick leave provided by the employee's employer, if this is greater than the leave the bill mandates;

4. authorizes the labor commissioner to award reasonable attorney's fees and costs when awarding relief; and

5. requires the court to pay an employee reasonable attorney's fees and costs upon the employee's winning a court appeal.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2007

PAID SICK LEAVE

This bill requires employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave accruing at a rate of one hour for every 40 hours worked. It defines employer as any person, firm, business, educational institution, nonprofit agency, corporation, limited liability company, or any other entity, including public sector employers, that employs 50 or more workers.

Once they have been employed for 120 days, employees are entitled to use the time. They can use the greater of (1) 52 hours of accrued sick leave a year or (2) the number of hours of paid sick leave provided by their employer that is more generous than required under the bill.

Each employee is entitled to carry over accrued paid sick leave from one year, whether calendar or fiscal, to succeeding years. The bill specifies that it does not prevent employers from providing a more generous paid leave policy than the bill requires.

OTHER PAID LEAVE

Any employer that offers employees paid leave, other than vacation leave, that can be used for the same purposes and under the same conditions as sick leave under the bill is deemed to be in compliance with the bill. This appears to be an inconsistency as it does not require an employer to provide the same amount of leave as required by the bill in order to be deemed in compliance.

EMPLOYEE DEFINED

Under the bill, employee means anyone engaged in service to an employer in the employer's business who is (1) paid by an hourly rate, or (2) not exempt from the minimum wage and overtime compensation requirements of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended. Generally, managers who have authority to hire and fire staff, and professional occupations (such as lawyers and physicians) are exempt from overtime requirements.

PERMITTED USES

Under the bill, an employer must permit an employee to use paid sick leave for the following reasons related to mental or physical illness:

1. an employee's illness, injury, or health condition;

2. the medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of such a condition; or

3. preventive medical care for an employee.

An employer must also allow an employee to use paid sick time when the employee is the victim of family violence, sexual assault, or stalking:

1. for medical care or psychological or other counseling for physical or psychological injury or disability;

2. to obtain services from a victim services organization;

3. to relocate; or

4. to participate in any related civil or criminal legal proceedings.

The bill uses the existing statutory definitions for “family violence,” “sexual assault,” and “stalking.

PERMITTED EMPLOYEE REQUIREMENTS

The bill permits employers to place certain requirements on employees seeking to use paid sick leave under various circumstances. If the need to use paid sick leave is foreseeable, an employer can require advance notice, not more than seven days before the date the leave is to begin, of the intention to take leave. If the leave is not foreseeable, an employer can require an employee to give notice as soon as feasible.

For leave of three or more consecutive days, an employer can require reasonable documentation that the leave is being taken for the purposes permitted by the bill. Table 1 shows how the bill defines reasonable documentation.

Table 1: Documentation Needed for Sick Leave

Type of Leave

Documentation

Mental or physical illness, treatment of an illness or injury, mental or physical diagnosis, or preventive medical care

Documentation signed by the health care provider treating the employee and indicating the need for the number of days of such leave

The employee is a victim of family violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

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 employee

RETALIATION PROHIBITED

The bill bans any employer from taking retaliatory personnel action or discriminating against an employee because the employee (1) requests or uses paid sick leave as provided in the bill or (2) files a complaint with the labor commissioner alleging an employer's violation of the bill.

The bill defines retaliatory personnel action as a termination, suspension, constructive discharge, demotion, unfavorable reassignment, refusal to promote, disciplinary action, or any other adverse employment action taken by an employer against an employee.

PENALTIES

Violators are liable to the Labor Department for a civil penalty of $ 600 for each violation. The labor commissioner must find, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the employer violated its provisions. The labor commissioner also may award appropriate relief, including rehiring or reinstatement to the person's previous job, back wages, reestablishment of employee benefits for which the employee would have been eligible if not for the retaliatory action or discrimination, and reasonable attorney's fees and costs.

Aggrieved parties may appeal the commissioner's decision to Superior Court. The court must award any employee who wins the appeal with reasonable attorney's fees and costs.

CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION

The bill requires an employer who possesses health information or information pertaining to family violence about an employee to keep it confidential and not disclose it except to the affected employee or with the employee's permission.

EMPLOYEE NOTICE

Each employer subject to the bill's provisions must provide notice to each employee at the time of hiring that:

1. the employee is entitled to sick leave, the amount of sick leave provided, and the terms under which sick leave may be used;

2. retaliation by the employer against the employee for requesting or using sick leave is prohibited; and

3. the employee has a right to file a complaint with the labor commissioner for any violation of the bill.

Employers can comply with this requirement by displaying a poster in a conspicuous place, accessible to employees, at the employers' place of business that contains the required information in English and Spanish. The bill authorizes the labor commissioner to adopt regulations to establish additional notice requirements.

BACKGROUND

Legislative History

The Senate referred the bill (File 220) to the Judiciary Committee, which reported it out with substitute language. The substitute bill increased the number of employees of covered employers from 15 to 25, limited the annual use of paid sick leave to a maximum of 52 hours, added the definition of employee, removed the exemption for public employers, and required that violations be determined by a preponderance of the evidence.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Labor and Public Employees Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

8

Nay

2

(03/15/2007)

Judiciary Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

19

Nay

13

(04/27/2007)

Appropriations Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

29

Nay

18

(05/21/2007)