OLR Bill Analysis

SB 913

AN ACT MANDATING EMPLOYERS PROVIDE PAID SICK LEAVE TO EMPLOYEES.

SUMMARY:

This bill requires employers that employ 50 or more people in the state to provide certain employees with paid sick leave accruing at a rate of one hour per 40 hours worked. The earliest employees can begin accruing sick leave is January 1, 2012, and they must work at least 680 hours after the leave begins accruing before they can begin to use it. An employee can use the leave for illness or injury and any related treatment for the employee or the employee's child, spouse, or parent. An employee can also use it for reasons related to family violence or sexual assault. Employers that offer other types of paid leave that can be used for the same purposes and accrues at least as quickly are deemed to comply.

The bill does not require employers to provide paid sick leave to (1) day or temporary workers, (2) non-hourly employees such as salaried professionals, or (3) certain part-time or adjunct faculty in the state higher education system.

The bill bans employers from retaliating or discriminating against employees who request or use the leave and allows complaints to be filed with the labor commissioner. It establishes a $ 600 civil penalty for each violation and allows the commissioner to award other appropriate relief such as rehiring or payment of back wages. Parties can appeal the commissioner's decision to the Superior Court.

The bill requires employers to provide employees with notice of the rights and protections it provides and allows the labor commissioner to develop regulations for additional notice requirements.

The bill also specifies that it does not preempt the terms of any union contract in effect before January 1, 2012, or diminish any right provided to any employee under a union contract.

EFFECTIVE DATE: January 1, 2012

2 & 3(D) — PAID SICK LEAVE

The bill requires employers to provide certain 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 employ 50 or more workers in Connecticut.

Benefit Accrual

Employees cannot start accruing leave time until January 1, 2012. Employees hired before then will start accruing on that date and employees hired after that date will start accruing on their date of employment. Employees cannot use the benefit until they have worked at least 680 hours after the benefit starts accruing. At that point, they will have accrued 17 benefit hours. Employees cannot accrue more than 40 hours of sick leave in a calendar year. They can carry up to 40 hours of sick leave into the next calendar year, but cannot use more than 40 hours of leave in any year.

Sick Leave Pay

The bill requires the employee's compensation while on sick leave to be the greater of (1) the employee's normal hourly wage or (2) the statutory minimum wage required while the employee is on leave. If the employee's hourly wage varies, the “normal hourly wage” is the average hourly wage paid to the employee in the pay period prior to the employee's leave.

An employer does not have to pay an employee for unused sick leave upon termination, unless otherwise provided by an employer policy or collective bargaining agreement.

Other Complying Leave

Employers are deemed to be in compliance if they provide other paid leave that (1) accrues at least as quickly as the sick leave and (2) can be used for the same purposes. Under the bill, “other paid leave” includes paid vacation, personal days, or time off.

The bill does not prevent employers from providing a more generous paid leave policy than the bill requires and it allows them to limit the use of any benefits they provide that exceed the bill's requirements.

Hour, Shift, and Benefit Flexibility

The bill permits employers to allow, but not require, employees to switch shifts or work extra hours in lieu of using sick leave. The different shifts or extra hours must be (1) upon the mutual consent of the employer and employee and (2) during the same or following pay period as the sick leave. Employers can also allow employees to donate any unused sick leave to their co-workers.

1 — COVERED AND EXEMPT EMPLOYEES

Under the bill, “employee” means anyone engaged in service to an employer in the employer's business who has worked at least 520 hours within the last 12 months for the employer. An “employee” must also be (1) paid on an hourly basis or (2) subject to the 1938 federal Fair Labor Standards Act's minimum wage and overtime compensation requirements. These requirements generally exclude managers who have authority to hire and fire staff, professional occupations (such as lawyers and physicians), salespeople, and certain skilled computer professionals.

The bill excludes “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 they are paid by the person for whom such work is performed or by an employment agency or temporary help service, as defined by law.

The bill also excludes certain employees of the state higher education system, including (1) part-time or adjunct faculty, (2) university assistants who work fewer than 20 hours a week, and (3) educational assistants or other part-time employees.

3 (A) & (C) — PERMITTED USES

The bill requires an employer to allow an employee to use paid sick leave for his or her, or a parents', spouse's or child's (1) illness, injury, or health condition; (2) medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; or (3) preventive medical care.

The bill defines a “child” as an employee's biological, adopted, or foster child, stepchild, legal ward of an employee, 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. A “spouse” means a husband or wife. It defines a “parent” as a biological parent, foster parent, adoptive parent, stepparent or legal guardian of an employee or an employee's spouse, or an individual acting instead of a parent to an employee when the employee was a child.

The bill also requires employers to provide paid sick leave when the employee is a victim of family violence or sexual assault for (1) medical care or psychological or other counseling for physical injury or disability, (2) services from a victim services organization, (3) to relocate, or (4) participation in any civil or criminal legal proceedings. Family violence is any physical harm or threatened act of violence that constitutes fear of such harm between family or household members. Sexual assault includes all penal code crimes of unlawful conduct with the intimate parts of another person's body, except Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Minor (CGS 53a-70c).

Under the bill, an employer does not have to provide paid sick leave for any reasons not specified in the bill.

3 (B) — PERMITTED EMPLOYEE REQUIREMENTS

The bill allows employers to require that employees provide notice (1) up to seven days before taking the leave if it is foreseeable or (2) as soon as practicable if it is not foreseeable.

If the leave is for three or more consecutive days, the employer can require reasonable documentation verifying the leave's purpose. Table 1 shows the bill's definitions of reasonable documentation.

Table 1: Documentation Needed for Sick Leave

Type of Leave

Documentation

For 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, spouse, or parent

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

For 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 — ENFORCEMENT

Retaliation Prohibited

The bill bans employers from terminating, suspending, constructively discharging, demoting, unfavorably assigning, refusing to promote, disciplining, or taking any other adverse employment action against an employee because the employee (1) requested or used paid sick leave as provided by the bill or (2) filed a complaint with the labor commissioner alleging an employer violated the bill's provisions.

Penalties

The bill requires the labor commissioner to impose a $ 600 civil penalty for each violation he finds by a preponderance of the evidence. The commissioner can also award other appropriate relief including rehiring or reinstating the employee, back wages, and reestablishing any benefits for which the employee otherwise would have been eligible. The bill requires the labor commissioner to administer the bill's enforcement provisions within available appropriations.

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

5 — EMPLOYEE NOTICE

The bill requires each covered employer to provide notice to each employee at the time of hiring that:

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

2. the employer cannot retaliate against the employee for requesting or using sick leave; and

3. the employee can file a complaint with the labor commissioner for any violation.

An employer can comply with this requirement by displaying a poster with 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 labor commissioner to adopt regulations establishing additional notice requirements.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Labor and Public Employees Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

6

Nay

5

(03/03/2011)