Connecticut’s Paid Sick Leave: A Prescription for Confusion
In July 2011, the Connecticut legislature passed the country’s first statewide paid sick leave law. Siegel O’Connor attorneys Bud O’Donnell, Jr. and Kyle McClain recently analyzed the law in an article published in The Connecticut Law Tribune. This article, entitled “Common Misconceptions Infect Sick Leave Law,” doesn’t simply rehash the law’s basic requirements; it analyzes common misconceptions about the law, as well as problematic interpretations issued by the Connecticut Department of Labor.
Four Areas of Concern
Specifically, the article addresses four major areas of concern regarding Connecticut’s paid sick leave act:
- The Law’s 50-Employee Benchmark Is Not Really 50. The paid sick leave law applies only to companies that employ “fifty or more individuals in the state in any one quarter in the previous year . . . .” As the article notes, the 50-employee benchmark is based on the number of individuals employed in any one quarter—not at any one time. Therefore, both an employee leaving employment, and an individual hired to replace that employee, count toward the 50-employee total, even though they represent only one employee position.
- Anti-Retaliation Provisions Are Not Just for Service Workers. While the law’s major focus—its paid sick leave provisions—applies only to a subset of employees defined as “service workers,” the law’s broad anti-retaliation provisions apply to all employees. As a result, no matter the nature of an employee’s work, employers are subject to the anti-retaliation mandates when that employee requests to use paid sick leave.
- Incremental Use Rule. While the law does not establish any minimum increment for use of accrued paid sick leave, or limit an employer’s ability to establish such a minimum, the Connecticut Department of Labor has stated intent to create a one-hour incremental use rule. As a result, an employee may not use accrued paid sick leave in increments of less than one hour, and an employer cannot require an employee to use more than one hour at a time.
- ‘Lifetime' 680-Hour Rule. The law says that a “service worker” is not eligible to use accrued paid sick leave until his or her 680th hour of employment from the date of hire. For a service worker that leaves employment and later returns, however, it is unclear whether the total hours worked toward this requirement begin anew. The Connecticut Department of Labor has stated that it intents to interpret all hours worked for a particular employer, no matter how far apart, as counting towards the requirement.
Bottom Line for Employers
In less than two months, Connecticut’s mandatory paid sick leave law will become effective. With a great deal of questions concerning the law’s implementation still unanswered, employers are urged to contact counsel to ensure their sick leave policies are in compliance with these new regulations.