Beyond the various federal labor laws that govern how U.S. employers must handle certain employee absences, many states and cities grant additional rights and protections to employees who miss work.
The rules tend to be even more employee-friendly at the state and local levels, so it’s important that you be familiar with all of the employee attendance laws that affect your business.
State and local regulations may extend employee rights beyond federal laws
State and local employee absence laws tend to be modeled after federal laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Typically, they extend certain rights and protections beyond what the federal laws require.
In some states, employees may be guaranteed longer periods of leave time and/or paid leave, or they may be allowed to take leave for additional reasons (for example, to care for a domestic partner with a serious health condition). And unlike some federal regulations (such as FMLA) that impact only larger employers, state and local labor laws often apply to smaller employers as well.
Other types of employee absences are often covered
Some state and local laws may also allow employees to take job-protected leave for reasons other than military service or medical issues. These laws – also known as “small necessity” leave laws – vary on how much time off an employer must allow, whether the time off is paid or unpaid, and whether the employee’s job must be held open until he or she returns.
Some common types of covered employee leave include:
- Attending a child’s school-related activities
- Treating or recovering from a workers’ compensation injury
- Serving on a jury or as a witness in a trial
- Donating an organ, blood or bone marrow
- Being screened for breast cancer
- Volunteering as a firefighter, paramedic, or certified disaster service volunteer for the American Red Cross
- Attending a judicial proceeding when the employee or a family member has been the victim of a crime
- Voting in an election
Knowing local 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 attendance 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.
Better yet, cover these topics in your written employee attendance policy or employee manual. Make it a habit to review state and local labor law regulations regularly and update your employee attendance policy whenever the laws change.