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Employee Leave Updates

In the absence of a federal paid family leave law, a growing number of states and local governments are enacting their own paid leave laws.

The best-known type of employee leave is a job-protected leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), where employees can request to take family medical leave for their own or a loved one’s illness, or for military caregiver leave. However, leave under FMLA is unpaid, and in most cases, employees may use available paid time off (PTO) or paid leave time in conjunction with family medical leave.

Rules vary by state, which makes it more difficult for multi-state employers to stay on top of compliance rules. The following is an overview of some new and changing state and local paid leave laws to note. 

Paid Sick Leave

The states that currently have paid sick leave laws in place are Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. There are also numerous local and city laws that are coming into effect across the country. Here are a few recent highlights:

  • In New Jersey, the Paid Sick Leave Act was enacted late last year. It applies to all New Jersey businesses regardless of size; however, public employees, per diem healthcare employees, and construction workers employed pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement are exempted.

    As of February 26, 2019, New Jersey employees were able to begin using accrued leave time, and employees who started after the law was enacted are eligible to begin using accrued leave 120 days after their hire dates.

  • In Michigan, that state’s Paid Medical Leave Act requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide paid leave for personal or family need as of March of 2019.

  • Under Vermont’s paid sick leave law, this January, the number of paid sick leave hours employees may accrue rose from 24 to 40 hours per year.

  • In San Antonio Texas, a local paid sick leave ordinance passed last year, but it may not take effect this August as planned. The ordinance mirrors one passed in Austin that has been derailed by legal challenges from the state. Employers in these cities should watch these, closely.

Paid Family Leave

The five states that currently have paid family leave policies are California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, and Washington, plus the District of Columbia.

New York, Washington, and DC all have updates coming to their existing legislation, and Massachusetts will launch a new paid family program for employers in that state.

  • In New York, the state’s paid family leave program went into effect in 2018 and included up to eight weeks of paid family leave for covered employees. This year, the paid leave time jumps to ten weeks. Payroll deductions to fund the program also increased.

  • Washington state’s paid family leave program will begin on January 1, 2020 but withholding for the program started on January 1 of this year. The program will include 12 weeks of paid family leave and 12 weeks of paid medical leave. If employees face multiple events in a year, they may be receive up to 16 weeks, or if they experience complications during pregnancy - up to 18 weeks.

  • The paid family leave program in Massachusetts launches on January 1, 2021 with up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a family member or new child, 20 weeks of paid leave for personal medical issues, and 26 weeks of leave for an emergency related to a family member’s military deployment. Payroll deductions for the program start on July 1, 2019.

  • The Paid Leave Act of Washington, DC will launch next year with 8 weeks of parental leave to bond with a new child, 6 weeks of leave to care for an ill family member with a serious health condition, and 2 weeks of medical leave to care for one’s own serious health condition. On July 1, 2019, the District will begin collecting taxes from employers, and paid leave benefits will be administered as of July 1, 2020.

Employers should expect to see changes in paid sick leave and family leave laws to continue. Companies should make sure they have the people and internal processes in place to track these changes and ensure compliance across the board.