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Connecticut to Become First State to Mandate Guaranteed Paid Sick-Leave Time for Employees


The Connecticut legislature has approved a landmark bill that will require many Connecticut employers that employ 50 or more people to provide up to 5 paid sick-leave days per year to their non-exempt and hourly staff, making Connecticut the first state in the country to pass such legislation. The bill is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Dannel Malloy and will go into effect on January 1, 2012.

The bill requires that covered employers provide sick leave to service workers, defined as employees who work in any of 68 occupational classifications specified in the legislation, including as security guards, janitors, office clerks, hair stylists, cooks, waiters, cashiers, retail salespersons, pharmacists, computer operators, among other classifications.

The bill does not require covered employers to provide paid sick leave to independent contractors, day or temporary workers or non-hourly employees such as salaried professionals. Also, the legislation exempts employers engaged in the manufacturing industry and most tax-exempt organizations.

Service workers will be permitted to use the accrued paid sick-leave time for their own or their immediate family member's illness, injury, or related treatment or to address issues arising from incidents of family violence or sexual assault. Importantly, employers already may be in compliance with the legislation if they offer another type of paid leave (such as vacation, PTO, or personal days) that can be used for the same purposes—and that accrues at least as quickly—as the paid leave time provided for in the bill. In such cases, the covered employer would not be required to provide the additional paid sick-leave time otherwise mandated by the legislation.

The bill permits anyone aggrieved by an alleged violation of the legislation to file a complaint with the State labor commissioner. It also prohibits employers from retaliating or discriminating against service workers who request or use paid sick leave as permitted by the bill. Remedies available to the labor commissioner include civil penalties, payment of back wages and reinstatement. Affected parties can appeal the labor commissioner's decision to the Superior Court.

Employers with operations in Connecticut would be prudent to review their current paid leave policies to determine whether they already comply with the new legislation, and, if not, to retool their policies accordingly.

Although Connecticut is poised to become the first state to mandate paid sick leave, several cities have passed ordinances with similar requirements, including in San Francisco, Milwaukee and the District of Columbia. Similar measures are currently pending in Philadelphia, Seattle, Denver, and New York City.

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