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Is Paid Sick Time Catching? Part I
Currently, paid sick time is not federally mandated and each state is left to its own devices as to how much sick time is given and if it’s paid. They do have to abide by the Family and Medical Leave Act, but beyond that, each state does what it chooses and now Massachusetts and Vermont could be legislating paid sick leave, following in Connecticut’s footsteps.

Current Situation

In 1993, the United States legislated a bill called the Family and Medical Leave Act, which says “eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.”

Or, in other words, some employees can take unpaid sick leave and have their jobs waiting for them to come back, and not lose their group health insurance.

However, it’s not without conditions, and the 12 workweeks in a 12-month period don’t apply to:


  • Employees who work for a company with fewer than 50 employees (except for public agency employers and local educational agencies)
  • Part-time employees who haven’t worked at least 1,250 in a 12-month period
  • Employees who ask to take the time off to care for pets or non-parent elderly relatives
  • Employees who ask to take time off for “small” things, like a cold or flu, or to care for a family member who has a similar short-term illness
  • Employees who ask to time off for routine medical care
  • Employees who are elected officials

    Some states have decided this isn’t enough for their citizens, and have gone a couple steps further, and in various ways:


  • District of Columbia: At least 20 employees
  • Maine: At least 15 private employees, and at least 25 city/town employees
  • Minnesota: At least 21 employees, but they can only take parental leave
  • Oregon: At least 25 employees
  • Rhode Island: At least 30 public employees
  • Vermont: At least 10 employees for parental leave, and at least 15 employees for family/medical leave
  • Washington: At least 50 employees, but they include more reasons than the FMLA and mandate that all employers have to have insured parental leave in place

    Massachusetts Could be Next in Line

    Bloomberg BNA reports that Massachusetts is debating paid sick leave, and “Our eyes are on Vermont, where a heated battle is going on in the legislature, with Vicki Shabo, the director of work and family programs for the National Partnership for Women and Families, said, “It’s very likely that this issue will be on the ballot [in Massachusetts] in November.”

    The Wall Street Journal, on the other hand, has gotten a different perspective, with the president of three Pole Position Raceways, Karen Davis-Farage, saying, “the standard in the work environment for a part-time role is that you’re paid only for the hours you work. When you’re hiring part-time retail individuals, it’s hard to cultivate a culture where they’re really loyal. If someone says they’re sick, are they really sick? Hopefully you get the right behaviour.”

    Because this is such a hot-button issue, we’ll be taking a look in the next blog post at the arguments made by both sides.


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