Virtually all employers will be require to allow employees provide up to 56 hours of paid if Congress passes the “Healthy Families Act” (H.R. 2460) introduced by Representative Rosa DeLauro with the support of 101 co-sponsors on May 18, 2009. Given the significant number of co-sponsors already on record as supporting the legislation, employers concerned about the proposed legislation need to act quickly to communicate their concerns to Congress.
If enacted as currently introduced, H.R. 2460 both would significantly expand the number of employers required by federal law to provide sick leave and overlay a mandate to provide paid sick leave in addition to the existing unpaid leave mandates currently applicable under the Family and Medical Leave Act to employers of more than 50 employees.
As proposed, H.R. 2460 would require all employers of 15 or more employees:
- To accrue at least 1 hour of paid sick time (up to a maximum of 56 hours per calendar year) for every 30 hours worked by each employee from beginning with the first day of employment of the employee. Exempt employees generally would be assumed to work 40 hours in each workweek for purposes of calculating accrued sick leave;
- Guarantee employees the right to begin using accrued paid sick time for one of the purposes qualifying for sick leave under H.R. 2460 beginning with the 60th calendar day following commencement of the employee’s employment and thereafter as he accrues additional paid sick time;
- To allow employees to carry over earned but unused paid sick time from one calendar year to the next except under certain limited conditions; and
- To reinstate accrued but unused leave for any employee rehired within 12 months after separating from employment and continue to recognize additional paid sick time accruals beginning with the recommencement of employment with the employer.
The purposes that H.R. 2460 would require employers to allow employees to use accrued sick leave also would be broader than those currently protected under the medical leave provisions of the FMLA. Under H.R. 2460, employees could use sick leave for any of the following absences:
- An absence resulting from a physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition of the employee;
- An absence resulting from obtaining professional medical diagnosis or care, or preventive medical care, for the employee
- In absence for the purpose of caring for a child, a parent, a spouse, or any other individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship (a “family member”), who has any of the conditions or needs for diagnosis or care of a physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition or in the case of someone who is not a child, is otherwise in need of care; and
- An absence resulting from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, if the time is to seek medical attention for the employee or a family member to recover from physical or psychological injury or disability caused by domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking or obtain or assist a family member in obtaining services from a victim services organization, psychological or other counseling; to seek relocation; or to take legal action, including preparing for or participating in any civil or criminal legal proceeding related to or resulting from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
In addition, H.R. 2460 also would require covered employers:
- To notify employees about their sick leave rights as dictated by H.R. 2460; and
- Not to discharge or discriminating against (including retaliating against) any individual, including a job applicant, for exercising, or attempting to exercise, any right provided or for opposing any practice made unlawful by H.R. 2460;
- Not to use the taking of paid sick time under H.R. 2460 as a negative factor in an employment action, such as hiring, promotion, or a disciplinary action;
- Not to count the paid sick time under a no-fault attendance policy or any other absence control policy;
- Not otherwise to interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of, or the attempt to exercise, any right provided under H.R. 2460; and
- Not to discharge or in any other manner discriminate against (including retaliating against) any individual, including a job applicant, because such individual has filed an action, or has instituted or caused to be instituted any proceeding, under or related to H.R. 2450; has given, or is about to give, any information in connection with any inquiry or proceeding relating to any right provided under H.R. 2450; or has testified, or is about to testify, in any inquiry or proceeding relating to any right provided under H.R. 2450.
Even before the current economic downturn, many employers already viewed the unpaid leave mandates imposed by the FMLA and other laws as burdensome. The added costs and complexities of providing more paid time off under another federally imposed mandate couldn’t come at a worse time for many employers. Given the number of co-sponsors, many commentators view the proposed mandates in H.R. 2450 as likely to pass the House unless businesses act quickly to educate members of Congress about their concerns.
Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Labor & Employment Practice Group Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer and other members of Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP are experienced with advising and assisting employers and others to respond to proposed legislation and regulations and addressing other leave and other labor and employment, employee benefit, compensation, and internal controls concerns. If your organization needs assistance with assessing or responding to H.R. 2450 or assistance with leave and absence management or other labor and employment, compensation or benefit concerns or regulations,
If you need help responding to these proposals or with other questions relating to compliance or risk management under other federal or state employment, employee benefits, compensation, or internal controls laws or regulations, please contact Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Labor & Employment Practice Group Chair, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer at (214) 270.2402 or via e-mail here. Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, “Cindy” works with businesses, speaks and publishes extensively on these and other labor and employment, employee benefit, internal controls and compensation matters.
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