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States Take the Wheel and Drive Paid Sick Leave Policy

Published by on March 18, 2015

President Obama’s State of the Union address on January 20th put issues of paid family and sick leave at the forefront of the American psyche. In its wake, states and localities around the country are taking action. Here are just a few examples of policy changes occurring on the local and state levels: In Pennsylvania, […]

President Obama’s State of the Union address on January 20th put issues of paid family and sick leave at the forefront of the American psyche. In its wake, states and localities around the country are taking action. Here are just a few examples of policy changes occurring on the local and state levels:

In Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia City Council passed a bill in February that requires all businesses with ten or more workers to offer employees earned, paid sick leave. Employees will earn an hour of leave for every 40 hours of work. While Mayor Michael Nutter vetoed similar pieces of legislation in 2011 and 2013, he had a change of heart this year, citing a “thriving” local economy as his reason for signing onto the bill, which passed 14-2.

In Maryland, legislators are hotly debating a possible paid sick leave bill, Senate Bill 40, the Maryland Working Families Act. This unique piece of legislation calls for the development and implementation of a “multilingual outreach program to inform employees…about the availability of earned sick and safe leave.”

The bill requires employers with ten or more employees to “provide employees with certain earned sick and safe leave.” The leave can be used for an employee’s own condition; to obtain preventative medical care; to care for a family member; to address issues of domestic violence or sexual assault, and more. In a recent Maryland Senate Finance Committee Hearing, advocates of the bill touted its ability to create a healthier workforce, while opponents argued the bill would put a financial strain on businesses that are just beginning to bounce back from a badly bruised economy.

And in Washington state, legislators have introduced House Bill 1356, which assures that “all workers may take at least forty hours of accrued paid sick or safe leave per year.” The bill may be seen as less controversial than those in Maryland and Philadelphia, as it only applies to employers with more than fifty full-time employees, as opposed to ten.

The bill finds that paid sick and safe leave is “critical to the economic well-being of the state and workers, and to public health and safety.”

Back in January, the Tacoma, Washington, City Council passed a bill requiring employers to provide employees with at least three days of paid sick leave, signaling that even if Washington’s statewide bill does not pass, localities within the state may elect to take sick leave matters into their own hands.

Laconic Lookout: Employers should keep an eye not only on federal developments regarding employee leave, but also on changes at the state and municipal levels as well. It is imperative for multi-state and multi-location employers to be informed as to the jurisdictions applicable to their offices, employees and operations in order to stay compliant.

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