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Connecticut paves way on paid sick leave

June 16th, 2011  |  Sheryl Allenson

While employees in many states attempt to ward off legislation that restrains their rights, those in Connecticut are celebrating today, with the passage of a new law that will require private employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees.  Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (D) is expected to sign Public Act No. 11-52, at which time the state will become the first in the country to require private employers to provide such benefits to their employees. The bill, known as “An Act Mandating Employers Provide Paid Sick Leave to Employees,” is expected to be signed by the governor, now that the legislation has passed the state House and Senate, and will likely go into  into effect January 1, 2012.

The Act applies to employers employing at least 50 workers, but exempts manufacturers and tax-exempt organizations that provide recreation, child care, and educational services. Covered employers are required to give up to 40 hours per year of paid leave to “service workers.” Service workers are defined as those who are engaged in service to an employer in the employer’s business, who have worked at least 520 hours for the employer within the past 12 months, and who are either paid on an hourly basis, or who are not exempt employees under the FLSA.

 Covered service workers accrue paid sick leave at the rate of an hour for each 40 hours worked. They will be entitled to use the leave after completing 680 hours of work, following the effective date of the Act.  However, a service worker shall not be entitled to the use of accrued paid sick leave if the service worker did not work an average of ten or more hours a week for the employer in the most recent complete calendar quarter. A covered employee can take leave under the Act for the employee’s own, or a child’s or spouse’s mental or physical illness, injury or health condition, including its diagnosis, care or treatment. Furthermore, the Act provides that a service worker who is a the victim of family violence or sexual assault may use the paid leave in order to obtain medical care, counseling, or other assistance, or to participate in legal proceedings related to the violence.

Under the the Act, covered service workers would be entitled to up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year. Moreover, employees will be able to carry over up to 40 unused hours to the next year. The legislation states that it is not intended to supplant an employer’s current, more generous leave policy, but rather is intended as a floor for the provision of paid sick leave. Nor is it intended to diminish any rights provided to any employee or service worker under a collective bargaining agreement.

As passed by the legislators, the  law states that employers may require notice of the intent to use sick leave when that leave is foreseeable and that, for leaves lasting more than three days, employers may require supporting documentation. However, employers are forbidden under the law from retaliating against their employees for requesting or using their sick leave and employers who violate the law face a $600 fine for each violation.