The purpose of this legislation is to require an employer to provide each employee with not less than 1 hour of accrued paid sick time for every 30 hours worked up to a total of 56 hours of paid sick time in a calendar year.

The proposal includes part- time employees.  If the normal workweek of such an employee is less than 40 hours, the employee shall earn paid sick time based upon that normal work week.

An employer is any “person” engaged in commerce or in any industry or activity affecting commerce who employs 15 or more employees for each working day during each of 20 or more calendar workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year.

For the purpose of counting employees for coverage, an employee is basically anybody on the payroll for any amount of time.   This aspect of the definition has its roots in the Fair Labor Standards Act definition, which is much broader than other employee definitions such as those found under equal opportunity laws.

 It also includes coverage for “exempt” employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act, such as executive and administrative exemptions, often referred to as “white collar” exemptions.

 Commerce is more broadly defined than in the Fair Labor Standards Act.  The terms “commerce” and “industry or activity affecting commerce” mean any activity, business, or industry in commerce or in which a labor dispute would hinder or obstruct commerce or the free flow of commerce, and include “commerce” and any “industry affecting commerce,” as defined provisions of the Labor Management Relations Act.

 Employees will be eligible to earn paid sick time at the commencement of their employment.  An employee shall be entitled to use the earned paid sick time beginning on the 60th calendar day following commencement of the employee's employment.  After that 60th calendar day, the employee may use the paid sick time as the time is earned. An employer may, at the discretion of the employer, loan paid sick time to an employee in advance of the earning of such time by such employee.

 Paid sick time earned shall carry over from one calendar year to the next; however, the proposal is not to be construed to require an employer to permit an employee to accrue more than 56 hours of earned paid sick time at a given time.

 Any employer with a paid leave policy who makes available an amount of paid leave that is sufficient to meet the requirements of the bill and that may be used for the same purposes and under the same conditions as the purposes and conditions outlined in the bill shall not be required to permit an employee to earn additional paid sick time.

 If an employee is separated from employment with an employer and is rehired within 12 months after that separation by the same employer, the employer shall reinstate the employee's previously earned paid sick time.  The employee shall be entitled to use the earned paid sick time and earn additional paid sick time at the recommencement of employment with the employer.

 An employer cannot require, as a condition of providing paid sick time under this bill, that the employee involved search for or find a replacement worker to cover the hours during which the employee is using paid sick time.

 Paid sick time earned may be used by an employee for any of the following:

  • 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.
  • An 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, who has any of the conditions or needs for diagnosis or care and in the case of someone who is not a child, is otherwise in need of care.
  • An absence resulting from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, if the time is to seek medical attention for the employee or the employee's child, parent, or spouse, or an individual related to the employee, to recover from physical or psychological injury or disability caused by domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking; obtain or assist a related person in obtaining services from a victim services organization; obtain or assist a related person in obtaining psychological or other counseling; seek relocation; or 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.

 Paid sick time shall be provided upon the oral or written request of an employee. Such request must include the expected duration of the period of such time; in a case in which the need for such period of time is foreseeable at least 7 days in advance of such period, be provided at least 7 days in advance of such period; and otherwise, be provided as soon as practicable after the employee is aware of the need for such period.

 If the absences are for reasons allowable under the bill but not for domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, an employer may require that a request for paid sick time be supported by a certification issued by the health care provider of the eligible employee or of an individual, as appropriate, if the period of such time covers more than 3 consecutive workdays.

 The bill provides the terms of what constitutes “sufficient certification.”

 If the absence is for permissible leave related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, a different certification procedure is to be followed.

 The leave provided is in addition to unpaid leave provided under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

 The bill does provide for various penalties and enforcement procedures.  The most notable is that it provides for an action to recover the damages or equitable relief in any Federal or State court of competent jurisdiction by one or more employees or individuals or their representative for and on behalf of the employees or individuals, or the employees or individuals and others similarly situated.  The employer could be liable for damages equal to

  • The amount of any wages, salary, employment benefits, or other compensation denied or lost by reason of the violation; or in a case in which wages, salary, employment benefits, or other compensation has not been denied or lost, any actual monetary losses sustained as a direct result of the violation up to a sum equal to 56 hours of wages or salary for the employee or individual;
  • The interest on the amount calculated at the prevailing rate;
  • An additional amount as liquidated damages;
  • Equitable relief as may be appropriate, including employment, reinstatement, and promotion; and
  • In addition to any judgment awarded to the plaintiff, allow a reasonable attorney's fee, reasonable expert witness fees, and other costs of the action to be paid by the defendant.


Representative Rose DeLauro (D-CT) has introduced H.R. 2460, the Healthy Families Act. Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) has introduced the companion bill, S. 1152, in the Senate.


Fifty-six hours of paid vacation.  Why would employees not take all of this leave?

 Putting aside the huge economic burden this law would cause, one could anticipate a variety of unintended consequences.  We would think employers would contemplate cutting any paid vacation time provided to employees.  We would think employers would reconsider the need for part- time employees.  We would think some employees would prefer others benefits rather than paid sick time.

 The administrative burdens would range from managing the additional leave requirements to dealing with certification procedures.

 Representative DeLauro says: 

“This is really about simply setting the floor on what we all can agree is good corporate citizenship. This is about staying competitive as a nation. But that is harder and harder to do, when 57 million people in our workforce do not have the right to take time off from work when they are sick, or when they need to stay home to care for a sick child or elderly relative. Meanwhile, nations all around the world, our competitors – do not face the same handicap and are surging ahead.

 “It is about keeping our businesses and workers strong – and helping to maintain their edge in a tightening global economy. But, we also know, it is hard to stay ahead when 19 of the 20 most competitive countries in the world guarantee paid sick days – and the United States is the odd one out.

“What does it say when Lesotho and Papua New Guinea are implementing paid sick days to give their businesses and their entire nation a competitive edge, yet America still does not get it?”

 The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), which opposes the bill as written, has this to say about the bill: “Rather than a one-size-fits-all government approach, where federal and state laws often conflict and compliance is determined under regulatory silos, SHRM advocates a comprehensive workplace flexibility policy that, for the first time, responds to the diverse needs of employees and employers and reflects different work environments, union representation, industries and organizational size.”

SHRM does, however, believe “that all employers should be encouraged to provide paid leave for illness, vacation and personal days to accommodate the needs of employees and their family members. In return, employers who choose to provide paid leave would be considered to have satisfied all federal, state and local leave requirements.”  For a 21st century workplace flexibility policy to be effective, SHRM believes the policy must meet the following principles:

  • Shared Needs – The policy must meet the needs of both employees and employers. Rather than an inflexible government approach, policies governing employee leave should be designed to encourage employers to offer a paid leave program (i.e., vacation, sick time, personal days or “paid time off” (PTO) bank that meets baseline standards to qualify for a statutorily defined “safe harbor.”
  • Employee Leave – Employers should be encouraged voluntarily to provide paid leave to help employees meet work and personal life obligations through the safe harbor leave standard.
  • Flexibility – A federal workplace leave policy should encourage maximum flexibility for both employees and employers.
  • Scalability – A federal workplace leave policy must avoid a mandated one-size-fits-all approach and instead recognize that paid leave offerings should accommodate the increasing diversity in workforce needs and environments.
  • Flexible Work Options – Employees and employers can benefit from a public policy that meets the diverse needs of the workplace in supporting and encouraging flexible work options such as telecommuting, flexible work arrangements, job sharing and compressed or reduced schedules. Federal statutes that impede these offerings should be updated to provide employers and employees with maximum flexibility to balance work and personal needs.


It is hard to imagine that the proponents could get 60 votes in the Senate.  But then it is hard to imagine that anyone would even introduce a bill like this, in times like these.



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