Update on State and Local Paid Sick Leave Laws

John GarnerCompliance, Legislative Updates, Resources

One of the most difficult tasks for human resource and return-to-work professionals is keeping up with state and local laws.  Below is a summary of some of the latest developments.


California’s new paid sick leave law goes into effect July 1, 2015.  The Office of Labor Commissioner has recently changed its position with respect to the notice provisions of the law.  Employees hired before January 1, 2015 must be given the notice by July 8, 2015.  Employees hired on or after January 1, 2015 must be given the notice at the time of hire.  Even if the employer’s existing written paid sick leave policy already complies with the new law, the employer must distribute the notice.

The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) has recently updated frequently asked questions (FAQs).  The revised information indicates that temporary employees are treated the same as all other employees.  When temporary employees are engaged through a staffing agency, the agency will have primary responsibility for compliance.  Because joint employers have obligations, employers should check their agreements with staffing agencies to be sure the agency will comply.

Employers that use paid time off (PTO) policies to comply with the new law face special complications.  Under California law, unused PTO must be paid upon termination; however, to comply with the paid sick leave law, if the employee is re-hired within 12 months, the employer must reinstate the employee’s unused PTO.

The DLSE’s FAQs clarify that for employees who were hired before July 1, 2015, the cap of 24 hours per year should be based on a July 1 through June 30 year and that for employees hired after July 1, 2015, the cap should be based on the anniversary of employment.  Unfortunately, this means employers will not be able to use a calendar year, unless the employer grants at least 24 hours of paid sick time per year at the beginning of a calendar year

The up-front method relieves the employer of the need to track accruals; however, in the absence of further guidance, it appears that an employer would need to grant 24 hours on July 1, 2015 and another 24 hours on January 1, 2016 and to new hires.

New Jersey

Cities in New Jersey continue to pass ordinances requiring employers to provide paid sick leave.  The latest cities to pass such ordinances are Montclair and Trenton, joining East Orange, Irvington , Jersey City, Newark, Passaic and  Paterson.


Philadelphia has enacted paid sick leave. T he Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces Ordinance applies to all employers in Philadelphia and covers all employees who work within Philadelphia for at least 40 hours each year.  The ordinance does not apply to independent contractors, seasonal workers, temporary workers hired for less than six months, adjunct professors, interns, state and federal employees or employees covered under a bona fide collective bargaining agreement.  There are certain other limited exceptions.

Employers with 10 or more employees must provide one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours.  Employers with fewer than 10 employees are subject to the same rules, but the sick leave can be unpaid.  Chains doing business in Philadelphia are required to provide paid sick leave, regardless of the number of employees in Philadelphia.

Employees must begin accruing sick time by May 13, 2015.  New employees can use paid leave beginning 90 days after the date of hire.  Employees can carry forward unused paid leave; however, use of paid leave is limited to 40 hours in a year.  Employers are not required to pay employees for unused leave upon termination of employment.

In addition to being able to use paid sick leave for their own illnesses and injuries, employees can use it for family members and for preventive care or issues related to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.  The definition of family member includes biological, adopted or foster children, stepchildren, legal wards and children to whom the employee stands in loco parentis.  Family member also includes biological, foster, step and adoptive parents and legal guardians of employees and their spouses and people who stood in loco parentis when the employee was a child.  Family member also means spouses, grandparents, spouses of grandparents, biological, foster and adopted siblings and their spouses and life partners, as defined in the Philadelphia Code.

Employers can require that paid sick leave be used in reasonable minimum increments of an hour or any smaller increment used by the employer to account for absences.

Requests for sick time do not have to be in writing.  Employees must provide reasonable advance notice when the need for leave is forseeable.  Employers can require documentation of the need for leave if it lasts two or more days.


Tacoma has enacted paid sick leave.  The Paid Leave Ordinance applies to employers with one or more employees and covers employees who work within Tacoma for 80 or more hours in a calendar year.  Persons performing services under a work-study agreement and independent contractors are not covered.

Employers must provide one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked, up to a maximum of 24 hours in a calendar year.  Employees can carry forward up to 24 hours of unused paid leave; however, use of paid leave is limited to 40 hours in a year.  New employees can use paid leave beginning 180 days after the date of hire.

Employees can use leave for issues related to their own health or the health of a family member.  Employees can also use paid leave to take care of their own needs or their family’s needs relating to domestic violence, sexual harassment, assault or stalking.  Paid leave can also be used due to work or school closures ordered by public officials or for bereavement.

The ordinance goes into effect February 1, 2016.

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