Paid sick leave policies have gained momentum of late with more than 200 such proposed laws having been introduced in states during the first half of this year, USA Todayreports.
Arizona became the latest to join six other states and the District of Columbia in passing a paid sick-leave law, as well as 28 cities and other jurisdictions, including New York, Chicago and San Francisco. But Arizona’s adoption of the law, which took effect July 1, also is significant when compared with the six other states--California, Oregon, Washington, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont.
While Arizona is the most politically conservative of all the states, it has adopted one of the most liberal paid sick leave laws. One provision of the Arizona law prohibits employers from punishing workers who take or simply request sick time. Retaliatory measures could include cutting back a worker’s hours and rejecting his or her request for a transfer even if the employer’s actions were not meant to punish the employee.
"This has become more of a bipartisan issue--something that the American public wants," says Bryan Hum, an associate at the ERISA Industry Committee in Washington, D.C. "This is a year of paid sick leave." Voters approved the new paid sick leave law in November’s election and also approved raising the state’s minimum wage to $10 an hour.
Maryland, Illinois and Rhode Island are among states now contemplating paid sick-leave laws. The norm for many of these paid sick leave laws is a minimum 40 hours of leave a year. Other typical requirements for employers include spelling out allowable reasons for the leave and putting in place record-keeping rules.
"You probably don’t want someone who prepares your food to go to work sick," says Rachel Deutsch, a senior staff attorney for New York-based Center for Popular Democracy. "There's a strong public-health rationale."
But while Deutsch’s group has advocated for Arizona’s and other sick-leave laws, not everyone is a fan. "I believe this is one of the worst thought-out and worst written laws I’ve ever had to implement," says Matt Redmann, executive director of Epi-Hab Phoenix. "There are so many unanswered questions."
One point of potential confusion for employers about the Arizona law is for those who believe the 40 hours of paid-time off they already allow workers to take for any reason is sufficient to satisfy the law. But the law is unclear and "offering 40 hours of PTO that can be used for any reason is not good enough," according to Phoenix-based law firm, Jaburg Wilk.
The law firm recommends that all employers in the state adopt a formal PST policy. It also cites an example of how an employer can get tripped up with the new law. "In the second half of the year, the employee gets sick and requests to use PTO," the law firm notes on its website. "The employer denies the request because the employee has no remaining PTO. A court or agency could find that the employer violated the new law by failing to give the employee PST for their qualifying healthcare reasons."
Minneapolis and St. Paul in Minnesota passed laws July 1 requiring most employers in those cities to give their workers paid time off, MPRNewsreports. In addition to being sick, workers can take time off to take care of a relative or to get help if in a domestic abuse situation. Employers need to give their workers one hour of paid time off for every 30 hours they work, and can go as high as 48 hours of paid time off every year.
Javen Swanson, a pastor at the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in St. Paul, who fought for the law, said it will help about 150,000 workers in Minneapolis and St. Paul. “Almost everyone has a story, or knows someone who has a story about struggling without paid sick time or has a story about a time when having paid sick time really saved their lives, where it was absolutely essential that hey had access to it,” Swanson said.