From April through June 2015, representatives from the Obama Administration traveled around the country as part of the “Lead on Leave” initiative started by the Department of Labor (DOL) in the fall of 2014. The Lead on Leave campaign encouraged states, localities, and businesses to take the lead on developing comprehensive paid family and medical leave policies. Judging by the increase in mandatory leave legislation by a few states, several cities, and at least one county, the initiative has started a new trend.
These new leave laws generally impose minimum standards for the accrual of paid leave, the situations for which an employee must be allowed to use the leave, who counts as an employee’s family member regarding the use of leave, and how unused leave may be managed (cashed out, carried over, expire, etc.). Some laws apply only to businesses with a minimum number of employees within the jurisdiction, but others apply more broadly to anyone employed in the jurisdiction, including babysitters and other household employees. Employers with leave policies that already meet or exceed the new standards are generally not required to change their policy, but some of the new laws include notice or posting requirements.
Here are just some of the paid sick leave laws enacted within the last year:
Emeryville (City of), CA – Minimum Wage, Paid Sick Leave, and Other Employment Standards – Adopted June 2, 2015 and Effective July 1, 2015 – City of Emeryville Minimum Wage Overview
Pittsburgh, PA – Paid Sick Days Act – Approved August 3, 2015 and Effective date will be 90 days after the City posts the official regulations and notice information for employers.
Oregon – An Act relating to mandatory provisions of sick time – Enacted June 22, 2015 and Effective January 1, 2016 – The state of Oregon does not have any resources available online for employers at this time. When information is posted, it will likely be posted to the Bureau of Labor and Industries. The Oregon Act is unique in that it not only provides mandatory paid sick leave but also includes provisions that preempt the City of Eugene Sick Leave Ordinance that would have been effective January 1, 2016, prohibit Oregon localities from setting any sick leave requirements of their own, but do not preempt the City of Portland’s Protected Sick Time Ordinance which has been in effect since January 1, 2014.
New Jersey – There are 9 cities and townships in NJ that adopted ordinances mandating paid sick leave. In June, 2015, the Senate Labor Committee of the New Jersey state legislature voted 3-2 in favor of S785, a bill which would mandate paid sick leave across the state. The full Senate has not yet voted. It is uncertain what will happen to the local ordinances if a state law is passed.
In areas where no state or local leave law has been enacted, employers are not necessarily off the hook if they do contract work for the federal government. On Labor Day, September 7, 2015, President Obama signed Executive Order – Establishing Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contractors. Similar to the ordinances noted above, this executive order provides minimum requirements for accrual and allowable uses of paid sick leave allotments. The leave provided by this order is in addition to any paid leave obligations a contractor may have under the Service Contract Act or Davis-Bacon Act, however the order only applies to new contracts entered into after January 1, 2017.
In addition to new paid sick leave laws, there has also been an increase in state legislative efforts to add or amend maternity, parental, or other family and medical leave laws. For states with laws already providing maternity leave, there is a push to change to parental leave to equalize benefits for fathers, same-sex couples, and adoptive parents so that all new parents have the opportunity to bond with their new child. Unlike the paid sick leave laws above, these laws do not generally require paid leave and instead focus on job security and fair access to take leave.
Here are some of the parental leave laws that became effective or were amended within the last year:
California – Amendments to the California Family Rights Act Regulations – Approved March 4, 2015 and Effective July 1, 2015 – Family Care and Medical Leave (CFRA Leave) and Pregnancy Disability Leave Notice
Oregon – An Act Relating to provision of health insurance benefits during period of family leave – Enacted June 10, 2015 and Effective January 1, 2016 – Oregon Family Leave FAQ (not yet updated to reflect changes due to the Act.)
As changes happen around the country, it is important for employers to make sure that they are registered as employers in each jurisdiction where an office is established, even if that office is only one employee who works from home. Registering with the local tax authority or labor agency enables localities to keep employers up-to-date with the requirements and regulations of operating a business.
While Keller occasionally posts articles regarding new and amended leave legislation, Keller’s primary service focus is health and welfare benefit programs. Leave policies, though they sometimes interact with or affect the administration of health and welfare benefits, generally fall under the purview of payroll management or labor and employment experts. Therefore, Keller does not closely track state and local leave legislation outside of Maryland, DC, and Virginia.
If you have questions about updating or enhancing leave policies, please contact your Keller account team or your payroll advisor.