OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 63

AN ACT MANDATING EMPLOYERS PROVIDE PAID SICK LEAVE TO EMPLOYEES.

SUMMARY:

This bill requires all employers with 50 or more employees in the state to provide their employees with paid sick leave that accrues at a rate of one hour for each 40 hours worked. Current law does not require employers to provide sick leave, whether paid or unpaid. Employees are eligible for the benefit once they work 520 hours for an employer and accrue sick leave from the first day of work. The bill limits the use of accrued sick leave to 40 hours a year. The leave can be used for an employee's or the employee's child's illness or injury, treatment of a physical or mental illness or injury, diagnosis, and preventive medical care. An employee can also use it for reasons related to family violence or sexual assault.

Exempted from the bill's provisions are (1) day or temporary workers and (2) certain state college or university employees, including part-time or adjunct faculty members.

The bill bans employers from taking retaliatory or discriminatory action against an employee because the employee requests or uses paid sick leave as provided by the bill.

It allows complaints to be filed with the labor commissioner, who must administer the law within available appropriations. Employers who violate the bill are liable to the Labor Department for a civil penalty of $ 600 for each violation. The commissioner may award appropriate relief, including rehiring or payment of back wages. Parties may appeal the commissioner's decision to Superior Court.

The bill specifies that it does not preempt the terms of any union contract that is effective before January 1, 2011 or diminish any rights provided to any employee under a union contract.

It requires employers to provide notice to covered employees of the bill's provisions and all employees' rights. The commissioner may develop related regulations requiring employers to provide additional means of notifying employees.

EFFECTIVE DATE: January 1, 2011

2 — PAID SICK LEAVE

The bill requires employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave accruing, from the date of employment, 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 in Connecticut.

Once employed for 520 hours (40 hours a week for 13 weeks), employees are entitled to use accrued sick time. They can use up to 40 hours of accrued sick leave per year. Each employee (1) can accrue up to 40 hours per year and (2) is entitled to carry over up to 40 hours of accrued paid sick leave from one year, whether calendar or fiscal, to the next year.

Other Complying Leave

Any employer that offers employees other paid 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. To be a complying plan, the paid leave must be accrued at a rate equal to or greater than the rate the bill requires. Under the bill, “other paid leave” may include flextime, compensatory time, paid vacation, personal days, or paid time off.

The bill specifies that it does not prevent employers from providing a more generous paid leave policy than the bill requires. Furthermore, if an employer has a more generous plan than the bill requires, the employer may limit how an employees uses sick time for his or her own illness to just that purpose.

Hourly Pay Rate for Sick Leave

The bill requires each employer to pay an employee for sick leave at a pay rate that is the greater of (1) the normal hourly wage for that employee or (2) the minimum hourly wage in effect for the period when the employee used paid sick leave.

Working “Catch up” Hours in Lieu of Sick Leave

Under the bill, by mutual agreement between the employer and employee, the employee may work additional hours or shifts to catch up on time missed in lieu of using accrued paid sick leave. The catch-up time must be in the same or following pay period, and the employer may not require the employee to work extra time instead of using paid sick leave.

Donating Unused Sick Leave

The bill specifies that it does not prohibit an employer from establishing a policy allowing employees to donate accrued sick leave to another employee.

1 — COVERED AND EXEMPT EMPLOYEES

Under the bill, “employee” means anyone engaged in service to an employer in the employer's business who is (1) paid at an hourly rate or (2) subject to the minimum wage and overtime compensation requirements of the 1938 federal Fair Labor Standards Act, as amended. Generally, managers who have authority to hire and fire staff, professional occupations (such as lawyers and physicians), and salespeople are exempt from overtime requirements.

The bill exempts “day or temporary workers” and defines them as those who perform work for another on (1) a per diem basis or (2) an occasional or irregular basis for only the time required to complete the work, whether such individuals are paid by the person for whom such work is performed or by an employment agency or temporary help service, as defined by law.

It also exempts the following employees of state colleges and universities: (1) part-time or adjunct faculty members, (2) university assistants who work less than 20 hours a week, and (3) educational assistants or other part-time professional employees.

3(A) — PERMITTED USES

Under the bill, an employer must permit an employee to use paid sick leave for the following reasons:

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

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

3. preventive medical care for an employee or the employee's child.

“Child” is defined as a biological, adopted, or foster child, stepchild, or legal ward of the employee.

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

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 proceeding.

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

3(C) — LIMITS ON USES

The bill specifies that its provisions cannot be deemed to require an employer to provide paid sick leave for any other purpose than those stated in the bill.

3(B) — 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 of the intention to take leave not more than seven days before the date the leave is to begin. 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 for the employee or the employee's child

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

Employee who is a victim of family violence or sexual assault

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

4(A) — 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 violated the bill's provisions.

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.

4(B) — PENALTIES

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

Aggrieved parties may appeal the commissioner's decision to Superior Court.

5 — EMPLOYEE NOTICE

Each covered employer 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.

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

BACKGROUND

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

The federal FLSA establishes a federal minimum wage, requires employers to provide overtime pay, restricts child labor, and prohibits pay based on gender. Certain occupations are exempt from its provisions, mainly managerial, professional, and commission-based sales jobs.

The FLSA sets the floor for certain workplace standards and Connecticut law often mirrors it (in the case of most child labor protections) or provides a greater benefit for the employee (in the case of a higher minimum wage).

COMMITTEE ACTION

Labor and Public Employees Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

6

Nay

4

(03/09/2010)