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Paid sick days standards are emerging across the country. View a chart summarizing the key points in existing laws here.
Here’s a quick overview:
At present, many government employees have access to paid sick days. All states provide paid sick days to at least some state employees, and the federal government provides 13 paid sick days a year to its more than 2.7 million full-time employees that can be used for self- or family-care.
Additionally, nine states — California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin — allow at least some workers who already have paid sick days to use them to care for certain family members. Some of these laws provide this right to workers with seriously ill family members while others permit flexible use of sick leave for family members with routine illnesses.
Connecticut is the only state in the nation with a statewide paid sick days law that allows a significant share of workers in the state to earn paid sick days to recover from illness, seek medical care, or care for a sick child or spouse.
San Francisco and Washington, D.C., have laws that allow workers citywide to earn paid sick days to recover from a short-term illness, care for a sick family member or seek routine medical care. In 2011, Seattle joined them by passing its own paid sick days law, and Philadelphia passed a law that requires employers to provide paid sick days to workers on city-funded projects.
In September 2011, the Seattle City Council passed and Mayor Michael McGinn signed the city’s paid sick days law, Ordinance 123698. Beginning in September 2012, the law will allow all workers in the city to earn paid sick leave to use for their own illness, injury or preventive care, for the health needs of a family member, to deal with the consequences of domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking, or if their place of business, or their child’s school or place of care, is closed due to a public health emergency. Workers in businesses with 49 or fewer full-time employees would be able to earn up to five days of sick leave annually, workers in businesses with between 50 and 249 full-time employees would be able to earn up to seven days annually and workers in larger businesses would be able to earn up to nine days annually. "Family member" is defined as a child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law or grandparent.
In June 2011, the Connecticut General Assembly passed the nation’s first statewide paid sick days bill. Governor Malloy signed it into law on July 5, 2011. Many workers at businesses with 50 or more employees are able to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked, or about five days per year for full-time workers. Paid sick days can be used to recover from illness, seek medical care or care for a sick child or spouse; victims of sexual assault or family violence may use the time to seek related assistance. The law applies to hourly, non-exempt service workers including those in health care, restaurant and food service, janitorial services and building maintenance, child care, hospitality, retail, transportation and more. Time begins accruing in January of 2012 and is available for use after 680 hours of employment. Although other existing and proposed laws provide coverage for more workers, the Connecticut law is historic and means that hundreds of thousands of workers who previously lacked paid sick days are guaranteed time off when illness strikes.
In November 2006, the voters of San Francisco passed a ballot initiative that made their city the first jurisdiction in the country to guarantee paid sick days to all workers. The measure received overwhelming support, winning 61 percent of the vote. Under San Francisco’s law, workers earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. Workers in businesses with 10 or fewer employees may earn up to five paid sick days per year, while workers at larger businesses can earn up to nine paid sick days per year. Workers may use paid sick time to recover from illness, attend doctor visits, or care for a sick child, partner or designated loved one.
In March 2008, the Washington, D.C. City Council unanimously passed legislation guaranteeing workers paid sick time. Under the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act, workers in businesses with 100 or more workers earn up to seven days of paid sick leave each year; workers in businesses with 25 99 workers earn five days; and workers in businesses with 24 or fewer workers earn three days. This paid time off can be used to recover from illnesses, care for sick family members, seek routine or preventive medical care, or to obtain assistance related to domestic violence or sexual assault. Amendments — including exemptions for some restaurant workers, as well as workers in the first year of their jobs — reduced some of the bill’s intended effect, but more than 100,000 workers who did not previously have paid sick time now have it, including many low-wage workers. The D.C. law was also the first in the U.S. to include paid "safe" days for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
In November 2008, voters in Milwaukee, WI, passed a measure (with 69 percent of the vote) guaranteeing paid sick and "safe" days for all workers in the city. The ordinance was preempted by the state legislature in 2011. A challenge to the preemption law is pending in state court. The ordinance would allow workers to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to nine days a year. Workers in businesses with fewer than 10 employees would accrue time off at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, up to five days a year. Workers would be able to use the time for their own illness, family illness, medical appointments, or any absence necessary due to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.