Dec 09, 2011 General Employment Issues

Connecticut’s Paid Sick Leave Law Takes Effect January 1, 2012

On January 1, 2012, Connecticut’s paid sick leave law will take effect.  The following provides an overview of key provisions of this new law and steps employers should take to comply with the law. 

1.   Covered Employers:  This law covers any person, firm, business, educational institution, nonprofit agency, corporation, limited liability company or other entity that employed 50 or more individuals in Connecticut in any one quarter in the previous year (as determined on January first, annually).  However, covered employers do not include: (a) any business establishment classified in sector 31, 32 or 33 in the North American Industrial Classification System (i.e., manufacturing establishments); or (b) any nationally chartered organization exempt from taxation under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, or any subsequent corresponding internal revenue code of the United States, as from time to time amended, that provides all of the following services: recreation, child care, and education.

2.   Employees Eligible for Leave:  This law provides for paid sick leave to “service workers.”  “Service workers” are, for purposes of this law, defined as hourly or other non-exempt employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (and regulations promulgated thereunder) primarily engaged in one or more of the specific occupations listed in the law.  (A complete list of such occupations is available at  Employers should note that the list of occupations covered by the law is very broad, and it includes many occupations that may not appear to be “service” based (e.g., cashiers, retail salespersons, first-line supervisors of sales workers, computer operators, mail clerks, statistical assistants, receptionists, secretaries, and administrative assistants, and miscellaneous office and administrative support workers).  Day and temporary workers are not considered service workers under this law.

3.   Reasons a Service Worker May Take Leave:  Paid sick leave may be used for a service worker’s (or for his or her child’s or spouse’s): (a) illness, injury or health condition; (b) medical diagnosis, care or treatment of a mental illness or physical illness, injury or health condition; or (c) preventative medical care.  Paid sick leave may also be used where a service worker is a victim of family violence or sexual assault for (a) medical care or psychological or other counseling for physical or psychological injury or disability; (b) to obtain services from a victim services organization; (c) to relocate due to such family violence or sexual assault; or (d) to participate in any civil or criminal proceedings related to or resulting from such family violence or sexual assault.

4.   Available Leave:  Service workers will accrue sick leave annually at a rate of one hour of paid sick leave for each forty hours worked by a service worker (starting January 1, 2012, for current service workers, or a service worker’s start date, if later).  Leave is accrued in one-hour increments, and is capped at forty hours of leave per calendar year.  Accrued and unused leave for one calendar year may be carried over to the next calendar year (up to 40 hours); however, the law provides that a service worker will only be permitted to use 40 hours of paid sick leave in a year.  Unless an employee policy or collective bargaining agreement provides for the payment of accrued fringe benefits upon termination, a service worker is not entitled to payment of his or her accrued and unused sick leave under this law upon termination of employment.

A service worker must first work 680 hours (starting from January 1, 2012, for current service workers, or a service worker’s start date, if later) before taking his or her first paid leave, unless the employer agrees to an earlier date.  A service worker is also not entitled to use accrued paid sick leave if the worker did not work an average of ten or more hours a week for the employer in the most recent complete calendar quarter.  

The Connecticut Department of Labor has advised that a service worker must be allowed to use the accrued paid sick leave in one hour increments, regardless of the employer’s time-keeping system.  Service workers taking leave under Connecticut’s paid sick leave law must also provide certain notice of the need for their leave in certain circumstances.  The Connecticut Department of Labor has also advised that employers may only request reasonable documentation of an individual’s need for leave if the individual uses paid sick leave for three or more consecutive workday absences.   

5.   Protection Against Discrimination and Retaliation:  An employer may not discriminate or retaliate against: (a) a service worker because the service worker requested or used paid leave under this law, or (b) any employee because the employee (i) requested or used paid sick leave in accordance with the employer’s own sick leave policy, or (ii) filed a complaint with the Labor Commissioner alleging violations under this law.

6.   Employer Notice Obligations:  Employers are required to provide notice of certain provisions of this law to new service workers upon hiring, and such notice may be accomplished by the employer posting in a conspicuous place, accessible to service workers, at the employer’s place of business a notice that contains the required information in both English and Spanish.  The Connecticut Department of Labor has published a form notice in English and Spanish that may be used for this purpose.  

7.   Interaction With Employers’ Existing Paid Time Off Policies:  The Connecticut paid sick leave law recognizes that many Connecticut employers already have policies in place that provide for paid time off, including sick leave.  These policies will satisfy the employer’s obligation to provide paid sick leave under this new law, provided: (a) leave may be used for all the reasons for which leave may be taken under Connecticut’s paid sick leave law, and (b) the leave is accrued in total at a rate equal to or greater than the rate leave accrues under Connecticut’s paid sick leave law. 

8.   Interaction With Employers’ Collective Bargaining Agreements:  The Connecticut paid sick leave law provides that it is not intended to: (a) diminish any rights provided to any employee or service worker under a collective bargaining agreement; or (b) preempt or override the terms of any collective bargaining agreement effective prior to January 1, 2012. 

The Connecticut Department of Labor has advised that a collective bargaining agreement that is in effect prior to January 1, 2012, including one that provides for less paid sick leave than is required under the Connecticut paid sick leave law, shall remain in effect until the collective bargaining agreement is expired or renegotiated, whichever date is earlier.  When the collective bargaining agreement expires, service workers who are members of that collective bargaining agreement must be provided with paid sick leave in accordance with the Connecticut paid sick leave law.  In addition, when the collective bargaining agreement is renegotiated after January 1, 2012, the new collective bargaining agreement must comply with the provisions of the Connecticut paid sick leave law.

9.   Steps an Employer Should Take to Comply With This New Law:  To prepare for compliance with this new law, employers should:

(a)   analyze whether they are an employer covered by the law, and whether they employ service workers covered by the law; 

(b)   review existing paid time off policies (e.g., policies regarding vacation, sick and personal days) to determine if these policies satisfy the leave requirements of Connecticut’s paid sick leave law, and amend their policies as necessary to comply with this law;

(c)   revise existing policies to incorporate the notice/documentation requirements and anti-discrimination/retaliation provisions of this new law; and

(d)   post a copy of the Connecticut Department of Labor’s poster regarding this new law in English and Spanish in a conspicuous place on the employers’ premises that is accessible to the covered service workers.

Please do not hesitate to contact any of our attorneys if you have any questions or would like assistance complying with this new law.