By Pension and Benefits Editorial Staff
In 2018, while legislation that would expand employee leave protections failed to garner sufficient support on the federal scene, several states took matters into their own hands to pass measures that add or expand family and medical leave and sick time.
Family and medical leave
California. The Paid Family Leave Program was amended to remove obsolete references to waiting periods in the Program. The Program provides for wage replacement benefits for workers who take time off to care for a seriously ill family member or to bond with a minor child within one year of birth or placement of the child. Specifically, the seven-day waiting period for an individual who was deemed eligible for family temporary disability benefits if, among other things, the individual was unable to perform his or her regular or customary work for a seven-day waiting period during each disability benefit period, and prohibited payments for benefits during this waiting period, was removed. Subsequently, the application of vacation leave to the waiting period was also removed (Ch. 80 (A. 2587), L. 2018, eff. July 11, 2018).
In addition, California’s Unemployment Insurance Code establishes, within the state disability insurance program, a family temporary disability insurance program, also known as the paid family leave program, for the provision of wage replacement benefits to workers who take time off work to care for a seriously ill family member or to bond with a minor child within one year of birth or placement. An individual who is entitled to leave under the FMLA and the CFRA is required to take Family Temporary Disability Insurance leave concurrent with leave taken under the FMLA and the CFRA. This law was amended to expand the family temporary disability insurance program to include time off to participate in a qualifying exigency related to the covered active duty or call to covered active duty of the individual’s spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent in the armed forces of the United States (Ch. 849 (S. 1123), L. 2018, eff. January 1, 2021).
Delaware. The Delaware Code relating to family leave was amended to provide state workers with 12 weeks of paid parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child. The law will apply to full-time state workers, including educators, after one year of employment. This makes Delaware the sixth state to offer paid parental leave to public workers (H. 3, L. 2017, eff. April 1, 2019).
Louisiana. Family and medical leave provisions applicable to public employment were expanded to allow teachers and other eligible employees to take sabbatical leaves for the birth or adoption of a child (Act 631 (H. 625), L. 2018, eff. August 1, 2018).
Massachusetts. The Paid Family and Medical Leave program was enacted. The new program provides employees who contribute to the program the ability to take paid leave for up to 12 weeks a year to care for a family member or bond with a new child, 20 weeks a year to deal with a personal medical issue, and up to 26 weeks to deal with an emergency related to deployment of a family member for military service. Weekly benefit amounts are calculated as a percentage of the employee’s average weekly wage, with a maximum weekly benefit of $850. Self-employed persons may opt into the program. The program is funded through a new payroll income tax, applicable to employers with 25 or more employees. The payroll tax takes effect beginning July 1, 2019. The Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave will begin to pay benefits on January 1, 2021 (Ch. 121 (H. 4640), L. 2018).
New Jersey. A new law was enacted requiring a temporary disability plan administering a covered individual’s benefits to automatically process an application for that individual for the paid family leave benefits program. Therefore, an individual will only need to submit one application for both programs (Ch. 122 (A. 2762), L. 2018, eff. October 4, 2019).
New York. The state has amended its Civil Service Law in relation to directing the granting of excused leave to public officers and public employees to undertake cancer screenings (Ch. 465 (S. 5925), L. 2017).
Puerto Rico. Private employers are prohibited from using justified absences due to illness as a criterion of efficiency of employees during annual employee evaluations (Law 60 (H. 96), eff. January 27, 2018).
Tennessee. Provisions for maternity/paternity leave and leave for adoption of an infant relating to state employment were amended to allow a state employee to use sick leave and annual leave for maternity or paternity leave for a period not to exceed the state employee’s accumulated sick leave and annual leave balance or 12 weeks, whichever is less. The state employee must submit a written request for such leave, together with a statement from the attending physician indicating the expected date of confinement, not later than the end of the fifth month of pregnancy.
Special leave shall be granted for a period of 12 weeks to adoptive parents. Employees may use sick leave and annual leave for all or a portion of that 12 weeks, not to exceed the employee’s leave balance if the child is one year old or less. If both parents are state employees, the aggregate of sick leave used for such purpose is limited to 12 weeks. Employees must submit to the appointing authority a statement from a state-licensed child-placing agency verifying the adoption. Additional special leave may be granted at the discretion of the appointing authority not to exceed one year. In the event the adoption process is not completed, the approval of leave is rescinded. Such leave does not apply to a stepchild or adult adoption (Ch. 907 (H. 2590), L. 2018, eff. July 1, 2018).
Vermont. The Vermont Parental and Family Leave law was amended to include leave for crime victims (Act No. 184 (H. 711), L. 2018).
California. Paid sick leave for in-home support services was amended to provide that, no later than February 1, 2019, the State Department of Social Services, in consultation with the Department of Finance and stakeholders, shall reconvene the paid sick leave workgroup for in-home supportive services providers. The workgroup shall discuss how paid sick leave affects the provision of in-home supportive services. The workgroup shall consider the potential need for a process to cover an in-home supportive services recipient’s authorized hours when a provider needs to utilize his or her sick time. This workgroup shall finish its work by November 1, 2019 (Ch. 35 (A. 1811), L. 2018, eff. January 1, 2019).
Michigan. The Earned Sick Time Act was enacted to provide workers with a right to earn sick time for personal or family health needs, as well as for purposes relating to domestic violence and sexual assault, and for school meetings needed as a result of a child’s disability, health issues, or issues related to domestic violence and sexual assault (P.A. 338 (Initiation of Legislation 3), L. 2018, enacted September 5, 2018, with effective date pending; This Act becomes effective on the 91st day after sine die adjournment of the regular session of the Legislature (tentative adjournment is December 20, 2018, with a tentative effective date of around March 21, 2019)). Note that it is anticipated that there will be an amendment to the law before it takes effect.
New Jersey. The new paid sick leave law allows workers to accrue one hour of earned sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours each year and permits employers to create more generous policies that provide additional leave time. Employees may use paid sick leave for the following: (1) Diagnosis, treatment, or recovery from a mental or physical illness or injury, or preventive care, for the employee or a family member; (2) Obtaining services if the employee or a family member is a victim of domestic or sexual violence; (3) Circumstances arising from a public health emergency; or (4) A school-related meeting or event with regard to the employee’s child. New Jersey now joins a select group of states that have enacted paid sick leave to provide earned compensation for workers who miss work due to illness or the need to take care of a sick loved one (Ch. 10 (A. 1827), L. 2018, eff. November 1, 2018).
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