With this new year comes new resolutions and the implementation of new bills involving leave.  The Family and Medical Leave Act and similar state laws give covered employees the right to take leave for addressing certain health conditions, caretaking, or parenting, but that leave is unpaid.  Various states and cities have taken the initiative to require certain employers to provide eligible employees with paid leave.

As of January 2014, Rhode Island became the third state to institute a paid family leave program, following California in 2004 and New Jersey in 2009.  Massachusetts may become the fourth depending on the passage of a pending paid sick days bill, which may otherwise go on a state-wide ballot in November 2014.  Washington became the second state to pass a paid family leave bill in 2007, but it has been since been suspended due to budgetary constraints.  Other states like Vermont and New Hampshire have been considering similar legislation.

In addition, states are not alone in this endeavor as local city councils have also enacted similar legislation.  Jersey City’s and Portland’s paid sick leave laws went into effect last month, making them two of five cities with such policies already in place, joining Washington, D.C., Seattle, and San Francisco.  Newark will soon become the sixth after its Municipal Council voted on January 28th to pass its own mandatory sick-leave ordinance.  New York City’s paid leave law is anticipated to go into effect on April 1, 2014.  Employers are urged to reexamine their policies and practices with respect to these states and cities, to ensure that they are in full compliance.


California: California’s Paid Family Leave Insurance program provides 6 weeks of leave annually with partial pay for employees who need to care for seriously ill family members, or for parents to care for their newborn, or an adopted or foster child.  Private-sector workers (i.e. part-time, small-business employees) are eligible for paid leave benefits.  A new state proposal currently being considered would guaranteed at least 3 paid sick days.

New Jersey: Similar to California, New Jersey offers 6 weeks of paid leave to care for family members, including domestic/civil union partners, or a new infant or adopted child.  The law further provides wage replacement of a minimum of two-thirds of weekly pay, at a maximum amount of $546 in 2009, which will be annually adjusted.  The program is supported financially with a payroll tax on employees, but contributions are capped each year.

Rhode Island: Before Rhode Island’s new paid leave policies went into effect, the state only provided leave to those who needed time off for work-related illnesses or injuries.  Now, Rhode Island offers a minimum of 4 weeks of sick leave (and that will increase to 6 weeks in 2015, and 8 weeks by 2016).  The program will be entirely supported through employee contributions.


Jersey City, N.J.: This city’s legislation, which went into effect as of January 24th, applies to all full-time, part-time, and seasonal workers in companies that employ 10 or more employees, who are eligible for 1 hour of paid sick leave for each 30 hours worked, with a maximum of 40 hours annually, or 5 days.  For companies with fewer than 10 employees, employers still have to allow 1 hour of unpaid sick leave per 30 hours worked, with a maximum of 40 hours annually.  While employees may start to accrue sick leave once they start working, employers are not obligated to provide it until such employees have worked at least 90 days for that employer. 

Newark, N.J.: Under this city’s newly enacted ordinance, full- and part-time employees will be able to earn up to 1 hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked.  There will be a 40-hour-per-year cap for businesses with 10 or more employees or those that offer child care, food service, or direct care.  Businesses with 9 or fewer employees will only be required to offer workers at least 24 hours of sick pay per year.  The ordinance will go into effect in 120 days or by June 2014.

New York City: In New York City, its new paid sick leave law is not expected to take effect until April 1, 2014, but the New York City Council recently voted to expand it even further to cover an additional 355,000 people at businesses with 5 or more employees, instead of 15, and to allow employees to take sick leave for other family members including grandchildren, grandparents, and siblings. Employees who work at least 80 hours per year are entitled to 1 hour of paid leave for every 30 hours and may earn up to 5 paid sick days.

Portland: As of January 1st of this year, Portland’s paid sick leave ordinance went into effect and stipulates that all businesses with 6 or more employees (whether full time, part time, or temporary) must provide up to 40 hours of accrued “Sick Time” per year.  All other private businesses are only required to provide unpaid “Sick Time.”  However, only employees who physically work in Portland may benefit from the paid leave policy.

San Francisco: The San Francisco Sick Leave Ordinance, which took effect February 5, 2007, applies to all employees in the City and County of San Francisco.  Every business, regardless of size, must provide paid sick leave to its San Francisco employees.  Under the law, employers are to provide employees with sick leave accruals of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked.  The law sets a cap on accruals at 40 hours for employers of fewer than 10 employees and 72 hours for all other employers.  However, the ordinance also allows employers to provide higher caps than the minimum imposed by law.

Seattle: As of September 1, 2012, employers of 5 or more full-time employees (both within and outside Seattle) and temporary/part-time employees (within Seattle) are required to provide for paid sick leave, after 180 days of work.  For large businesses employing 250 or more full-time employees, they must provide 1 hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked, for a minimum of 72 hours of paid leave per year.  For smaller businesses of 50 to 249 full-time employees, they must provide 1 hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked, for a minimum of 56 hours of paid leave per year.  For those businesses with 5 to 49 full-time employees, they must provide 1 hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked, for a minimum of 40 hours of paid leave per year.

Washington, D.C.: Under D.C.’s Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2008, public and private employees must be provided with paid leave, after 90 days of work for a given employer.  This applies to employers from large department stores to small family businesses.  Specifically, businesses with 100 or more employees must provide 1 hour of paid leave for every 37 hours worked, for up to 7 days of leave per year.  For smaller businesses with 25 to 99 employees, it is 1 hour of paid leave for every 43 hours worked, for up to 5 days of leave per year.  And for those with fewer than 25 employees, it is 1 hour of paid leave for every 87 hours worked, for up to 3 days of leave per year.