Connecticut Releases Guidance on State’s Paid Sick Leave Law

by Jonathan C. Sterling

Earlier this year, Connecticut became the first state to enact a law that requires employers to provide paid sick leave for employees. The law takes effect January 1, and the Connecticut Department of Labor recently published guidance on its website to assist employers in complying with the new law. Read the release from CDOL

Which employers are covered?
Generally, the new law requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide paid sick leave to their “service workers,” up to a maximum of 40 hours of leave per year. Under the law, service workers accrue the leave at a rate of one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. Service workers hired after January 1 can begin using accrued paid sick leave once they complete 680 hours of employment after their date of hire. Service workers employed before January 1 can begin using accrued paid sick leave once they complete 680 hours of employment after January 1.

The law doesn’t require paid leave for day or temporary workers or for employees who didn’t work an average of 10 or more hours a week in the most recent complete calendar quarter. The law also excludes manufacturers and certain nonprofits from its coverage.

The state’s guidance attempts to clarify a number of definitions and provisions of the new law, including how the department will determine the number of employees an employer has for purposes of evaluating the 50-employee limit and which companies will be considered manufacturers and thus exempt from the law.

Which workers are covered?
The guidance also addresses who will be considered a “service worker” and potentially entitled to paid leave under the law. The law provides a list of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Standard Occupational Classification job titles and codes that will apply.

The guidance states that if an employee’s job title isn’t specifically listed in the law, that doesn’t mean the job isn’t included in one of the prescribed classifications. The guidance directs employers to read the broad and detailed occupations and descriptions provided on the BLS website. The guidance also states that if an employee performs more than one job, the employer must use the classification in which he is primarily engaged to determine his status as a service worker.

Other answers
Guidance for how paid sick leave is accrued and carried over if unused in a calendar year also is provided. For example, it spells out that the 40 hours an employee must work to accrue one hour of paid leave is interpreted to mean time actually worked and doesn’t include any time off taken by the service worker, such as vacation or personal days.

The guidance also explains that employers may request reasonable documentation only if the employee uses paid sick leave for three or more consecutive workday absences. The guidance also spells out that unlike the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), there is no provision for an employer to seek clarification of the health care provider’s note or a second opinion if it questions the documentation.

Guidance is also provided on the law’s antiretaliation provisions, making it clear that although only service workers are entitled to paid sick leave under the law, certain provisions of the discrimination and retaliation section apply to all employees engaged in service to the employer.

Although the guidance doesn’t carry the weight of law, it is indicative of how the state Department of Labor will treat employers’ actions under the Act. You should become familiar with the guidance, make sure your policies are revised to reflect the new law, notify employees of their rights, and be prepared to comply with the law beginning on January 1.

For more information, see the December 2011 issue of Connecticut Employment Law Letter.