As a responsible business owner, you’re aware of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Uniformed Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), all of which affect how U.S. employers handle certain absences. Beyond these federal laws, however, many states and cities grant additional rights and protections to employees who miss work.
Though it’s easy to lose sight of these state and local laws (and the frequent changes that occur), it’s important to keep up to date. Absence coverage tends to be more generous at this level, so you need to be careful not to wrongfully deny leave or take disciplinary action for legally protected absences.
Let’s look at the state and local laws that apply to small businesses with fewer than 50 employees.
State and Local Employee Leave and Absence Laws
State and local legislators tend to model employee absence laws after federal laws, such as the FMLA, ADA and USERRA. Typically, these laws extend protections beyond what the federal laws require.
1. Small Necessities Leave Laws
The FMLA requires businesses with 50 or more employees (and in some states as few as 10 under state law) to provide unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons. However, many states have also adopted small necessities leave (SNL) laws to allow time off for activities not covered under the FMLA. Some of the short-term absences allowed under SNL laws include:
- Routine health care (taking children or elderly relatives to medical or dental appointments)
- Blood, marrow or organ donations
- Family illness (caring for a sick or injured child or a relative)
- Community service obligations
- Non-medical family responsibilities (such as caring for aging parents, helping settle parents’ estates upon death, relocating children into school or visiting family members in places that require extensive travel time)
- School-related activities (attending educational programs or parent-teacher conferences at a child’s school)
2. Sick Leave Laws
In recent years, a few states and cities have enacted paid sick time protections that are typically more generous than company policy. (Remember: Federal law doesn’t require businesses to provide paid sick time – most employers choose to do so as an employee-friendly benefit). Currently, 10 states and Washington, D.C. have passed paid sick leave laws, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families.
On May 2, 2018, New Jersey became the 10th state to adopt a paid sick leave law. Effective October 2018, the law enables employees to earn one hour for each 30 worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours in a year. This leave covers sick time for employees and their family members, closures for public health emergencies and children’s school-related conferences or meetings. It can also be used to get assistance or treatment related to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
The laws vary by state, which may include industry coverage, employer size and types of employees, as well as eligibility requirements, accrual rates and use of accrued sick time. Be sure to check here or another reputable source for specifics.
3. Maternity Leave Laws
Though the FMLA requires employers with 50+ employees to allow workers to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave when pregnant or caring for a new child, several states have greater benefits that may include paid maternity leave.
In 2004, California became the first state to pass a paid family leave law, which provides employees six weeks of time off to care for newborn or adopted children, as well as sick family members. Some workers may be eligible for an additional six weeks, and workers who earn less than one-third of the state’s average quarterly wage are entitled to 70 percent of their weekly salary. This law applies to all California employers, regardless of size.
4. Civic Duties
Many state and local laws require paid time off for employees serving on juries. These laws often apply to employees participating in criminal and civil trials as a witness, as well as voting in elections. Be certain you know what’s required in your area before making a decision.
Your state or local laws may require funeral leave for an employee who has lost a parent, spouse, partner or child. Because it’s a sensitive topic, it’s a best practice to create a company policy that addresses this type of leave upfront.
Knowing the Labor Laws Now Can Save You Time and Money Later
To stay on the right side of the law, be sure to check all of the employee absence rules that apply to your business before you deny an employee time off from work, dock employee pay, or discipline or fire an employee for absenteeism.
Always cover these topics in your written employee attendance policy or employee manual, as well. Make it a habit to review state and local labor laws regularly and update your policy whenever the laws change.
Ensure you’re abiding by these federal and state employee leave laws with TrackSmart Attendance. With this simple time and attendance software, your employees can request time off and you can approve/deny it, track it and adjust work schedules accordingly.