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Connecticut First in the Nation to Require Employers to Provide Paid Sick Leave

Connecticut is the first state in the nation to require employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave.  Both the state Senate and House already passed the bill.  Governor Malloy is expected to sign it into law soon.  The new requirements will go into effect on January 1, 2012. 

The bill requires employers with fifty or more employees in Connecticut to allow certain employees to accrue one hour of sick leave for every forty hours worked.  The leave is limited to a maximum of forty hours (five days) per year.  Employees can carry over forty hours to the next year, but an employee can only accumulate a total of eighty hours of leave in one year.  Paid sick leave can be used for an employee’s illness, to care for a sick family member, preventative care, or treatment for sexual or domestic abuse. 

The leave requirements apply to “service workers” who are either paid hourly or not exempt from overtime.  The definition of service workers is bound to cause confusion, as it is unclear, and lists several broad categories.  Such categories include secretaries and administrative assistants, office clerks, nurse practitioners, and many restaurant workers.  Most exempt employees and temporary or day workers are not included in this definition.  If your employee does not fit into one of those categories, you will not need to provide the paid sick leave. 

The bill exempts certain manufacturers and the YMCA from these requirements.  If an employer already provides for at least five days of any paid leave, such as vacation days, personal days, sick days or other paid time off, they are not required to provide an additional five days.  This is the case for many employers already, and therefore this bill will not affect them.  However, for businesses, such as restaurants, where employees usually switch shifts around as opposed to get paid for their sick leave, significant changes will need to be made. 

The law requires employers give employees notice upon hiring of their right to take leave, the details of the leave policy, the prohibition against retaliation, and their right to file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner.  In the alternative, employers can post a poster in their workplace which covers all that information in English and Spanish. 

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against any employee (not just service workers) who takes paid sick leave.  Employees are permitted to file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner if they believe their rights under this law have been violated.  The Commissioner may hold a hearing, and could assess a fine between $100 and $500 per violation, depending on the type of violation. 

Democrats and unions supported the bill.  They complain the United States is the only top industrialized country not to guarantee some type of paid sick leave.  Democrats claim this bill will protect workers and the public health, especially families with sick children.  Business owners claim the bill is anti-business and will make it harder to run businesses in Connecticut.

We anticipate Governor Malloy will sign this bill soon.  The requirements promise to create a new headache for employers in Connecticut, as more recordkeeping and legal interpretation will be necessary.  Employers need to revise their leave policies to reflect the new changes by the New Year.  Employers should discuss the new law with counsel to ensure compliance.  Brody and Associates regularly advises management on complying and remaining up to date with state and federal employment laws.  If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com or 203.965.0560.