Paid Sick Leave Laws Enacted in U.S. State and Local Elections

November 10, 2014

Following a nationwide trend, voters in Massachusetts; Oakland, California; Trenton, New Jersey; and Montclair, New Jersey, approved ballot initiatives enacting paid sick time laws.

The following jurisdictions passed a new paid sick leave law:[1]

  • Massachusetts: By passing a statewide paid sick time law,[2] voters in Massachusetts made their state the third in the United States to guarantee paid sick time to most workers. The other two states are Connecticut and California. The Massachusetts law requires employers with 11 or more employees to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick time to each employee per year. Employers with 10 or fewer employees will be guaranteed only unpaid sick time under the law. The new law will take effect on July 1, 2015. The Massachusetts Attorney General is charged with enforcing the law and will prepare a notice for employers to give to employees setting forth their rights under the law.
  • Oakland, California: Oakland has joined the ranks of certain California cities to pass local paid sick time ordinances,[3] following those already in place in San Francisco, San Diego (ordinance currently stayed), and Long Beach (ordinance applies only to hotel workers). Under Oakland’s ordinance, employers with fewer than 10 employees will be required to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year, while employers with 10 or more employees must provide up to 72 hours of paid sick leave per year. Oakland’s ordinance mandates that employees will begin accruing paid sick time on March 2, 2015 (with one hour accrued for every 30 hours worked, up to the cap). Employers are required to give written notice to each employee, and the Oakland City Administrator is authorized to prepare sample notices, which, if distributed, will satisfy the law’s notice requirements.
  • Trenton and Montclair, New Jersey: Trenton and Montclair’s newly enacted paid sick time laws[4] are nearly identical to those enacted by other New Jersey cities in the last year, including East Orange, Irvington, Jersey City, Newark, Passaic, and Paterson. Trenton and Montclair now require employers with 10 or more employees to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick time annually, while employers with fewer than 10 employees must provide up to 24 hours of paid sick time per year. Covered employees will start accruing paid sick time upon the commencement of employment or March 4, 2015, whichever is later, and must receive written notice of the rights guaranteed by the new laws. Trenton and Montclair’s Departments of Health and Human Services will be tasked with enforcing the ordinances and may publish additional guidance and sample employee notice forms before the laws take effect.

Impact of Paid Sick Time Laws

The paid sick time laws give covered employees the right to paid time off to recover from illness, to care for a sick family member, to obtain preventive care or diagnosis, or to help a family member, as defined in the applicable law, to obtain such care or diagnosis. Most of the laws also permit employees to use paid sick time when a public official has closed the employee’s place of business or the school of an employee’s child due to a public health emergency. In addition, each of the laws prohibits retaliation against an employee who exercises his or her rights under the sick time law or who informs other employees about the right to paid sick time.

It is critical that employers understand the requirements of the paid sick time laws applicable in the jurisdictions where they operate. Employers should review, create, or modify existing policies to ensure compliance with all applicable laws and should consider training managers and human resources employees about appropriate implementation and application of the laws, including the reasons employees may use sick time, how much sick time they may use, and the types of documentation that employers may request when employees use accrued sick time.


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[1]. Responding to this trend, 10 states have recently enacted laws prohibiting local jurisdictions from passing paid sick time laws, including Georgia, Wisconsin, Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, Kansas, Arizona, Indiana, and Florida.

[2]. View the Massachusetts law here.

[3]. View the Oakland law here.

[4]. View the Montclair law here.