IT MIGHT JUST PAY TO BE SICK
Currently, there are no federal laws that require paid sick leave. If an employer is subject to the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act), it is required to provide up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave to an employee under certain medical conditions when that employee is eligible. In many cases, an employer will require an employee to substitute paid leave for the unpaid FMLA leave. Similarly, the Fair Labor Standards Act requires that an employee only be paid for hours worked.
If the President is able to push his agenda of extensive overhaul of the employment landscape forward through the Republican led Congress, all of this may be about to change. Recently, as a glimpse of things to come, President Obama announced that he will push Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, H.R. 1902, (HFA) which would allow millions of workers to earn up to seven days a year of paid sick time when they or their families have medical needs. In his State of the Union address, the President pled with Congress to “send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave” because “it’s the right thing to do.” As it stands, the HFA would apply to employers with 15 or more employees for each working day during 20 or more workweeks a year.
The push is also on for states and cities to pass similar laws. At this time, several states and cities have already enacted paid sick leave laws. Connecticut, California, and Massachusetts now require earned sick leave, as well as the cities of New York City (effective April 1), Seattle, WA, Jersey City, NJ (effective January 24), Portland, OR, San Francisco, CA, and Washington, D.C. Others are in the process of considering such laws.
Not unexpectedly, these paid sick leave measures come with a cost. President Obama will ask Congress for 2.2 billion dollars in mandatory funding to encourage states to develop paid family and medical leave programs. However, in light of the current political atmosphere, it is fully expected that passage of the HFA will not come easily and will face an uphill battle going forward.