12 Paid Sick Leave Laws Every Employer Must Understand

Paid Sick Leaves are basic incentives you can give to your employees & are supported by most employment laws across the country. Employers need to read this.

Paid Sick Leave Laws Employers Must Know


Employers are required by jurisdictions, especially in Chicago, to provide paid sick leaves to qualified employees.

Paid sick leave laws are one of the most developed employment laws among local and state jurisdictions.

However, employers who are subject to several different rules may find it challenging to understand the requirements of PSL (Paid Sick Leave) laws.

Hence, we are compelled to discuss 12 common paid sick leave laws that every employer must know:


1. States that Require Paid Sick Leaves

State Sick Leave

Presently, the states listed below demand (or will soon demand) that employers must provide paid sick leaves to employees. Remember that some of these legislations allow small scale employers (as defined by each legislation) to also issue sick leaves that are unpaid.

States that require paid sick leaves: (alt text suggestion: Map graph of states that require paid sick leaves)

Other Courts:

  • In Austin, Texas, an appeals court has ruled, in November 16, 2018, that the city ordinance is unconstitutional because it is prevented by state law.

  • Thus, the ordinance is still obstructed from being enacted. We will keep on tracking the development of this case so we can always update you via this page.

  • In San Antonio, Texas, employers with more than five employees are required to provide paid sick leaves - effective August 1, 2019.

  • For small scale employers, it will be effective by August 1, 2021.

  • Chicago

  • District of Columbia

  • Cook Country, Illinois

  • California Cities: Los Angeles, Berkeley, Long Beach (especially hotels that have 100 rooms or more), Emeryville, San Diego, Oakland, Santa Monica, and San Francisco.

  • Washington Cities: SeaTac (industries in transportation and hospitality), Seattle, and Tacoma.

  • Minnesota Cities: St. Paul, Duluth (will take effect on January 1, 2020), and Minneapolis.

  • Philadelphia

  • Montgomery County in Maryland

  • New York City

  • Westchester County in New York (will take effect on April 10, 2019)


2. Paid Sick Leave Laws: Covered Types of Absences

The coverage differ by local and state laws but in most cases, paid sick leave laws cover absences of employees with medical diagnosis, even those who have family members with mental or physical illness, or when the situation requires preventative care - this is particularly being practiced in Chicago, Illinois.

Moreover, several jurisdiction allow PSL laws to accomodate absences that involve assistance from sexual assault, domestic violence, and/or stalking.

Make sure to check how “family member” is defined and other absence types that are covered in the paid sick leave law in your state.


3. Amount of Paid Sick Leaves Employers Must Provide

The amount of paid sick leaves employers must provide differs in each state legislation. Commonly, employees can accrue an hour of sick leave for a certain period or number of work hours.

In Chicago, employees are entitled to get one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours of work done. Also, some legislations permit employers to limit the work hours an employee can accumulate in a year.


4. Amount of Payment for Sick Leaves

Employers often wonder how much they should pay employees who are on sick leaves.

Well, in most paid sick leave legislations, employers are required to pay their employees at their normal working rate even though they are on leave.

Generally, your employee’s “normal working rate” is determined by certain rules for sick leaves.


5. What Happens to Unused Sick Leaves?

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Most often than not, some employees cannot or do not use all their sick leaves in a year. Should these unused sick leaves be added to the next year?

Commonly, paid sick leave laws allow employees to bring or add their unused sick leaves to the next year. Still, several legislations limit the hours of paid sick leaves an employee can use for the succeeding year.

Also, remember that in some locations like Chicago, employers can choose to provide sick leaves by using either the accrual method or the frontloading method.

When you use the frontloading method, your employees get all of the paid sick leaves they are entitled to get, for the whole year, at the start of the year.

This is because some legislations do not require employers to add unused sick leaves to the next year if they use the front loading method.

For your company’s compliance, it is best to always check the applicable law in your state.


6. Paid Time Off (PTO) Vs. Paid Sick Leave (PSL)

Some employers are already providing paid time off (PTO) to their employees. Does this also comply to the regulation for paid sick leaves (PSL)?

Generally, you are not required to provide additional paid sick leaves to your employees if your company already have paid time off policy. Given that the policy:

-Permits your employees to use the same number of leave hours for the similar purposes and conditions stated in the paid sick leave law in your state; and

-Follows the requirements for the paid sick leave legislation in your state such as carryover, accrual, and use of leaves.

You may find the paid time off (PTO) policy as an attractive option especially if you are subject to several paid sick leave laws. This can be a wise choice so long as it follows the regulations directed by the most liberal paid sick leave legislation.

7. Employees Leaving with Unused Sick Leaves - Should You Pay Them?


In most states, an employer is not required to pay employees for accumulated yet unused sick leaves when they are terminated or when they leave the company.

On the other hand, in some states like California, employers are required to pay employees for all their unused paid time off at the time when they leave the company.

Also, if you combine paid sick leaves and paid time off into one policy, it may cost you more when paying an employee his or her final payout.

Now, what happens if an employee returns to the company within a definite span of time?

Well, some paid sick leave laws demand that employers must restore an employee’s unused leave hours if he/she returns to the company within the same time period.

Thus, it is critical that you maintain an accurate leave hours record of your employees - this may also be required by your state employment laws.


8. When State & Local Sick Leave Laws Both Apply to Employees

Some employers are caught in between state and local employment laws. If you have employees who are subject to both, you are required to comply with both laws accordingly.

However, in situations where the laws are conflicting, you must follow the legislation that is more giving to the employee.
Thus, it is best that you study the differences between the state and local sick leave laws that apply to your employees so you can provide the best paid leave policy to them without compromising your compliance to the law.


9. Requiring Documentation for a Paid Sick Leave

In several cities and states with well-developed employment laws, such as in Chicago, Illinois, employers are permitted to ask their employees to submit a documentation to prove that their absence is covered by the paid sick leave law.

However, the reasonable documentations to be provided have some restrictions. This is because several laws do not allow employers to request documentation unless an employee has been out for sick leave for more than three consecutive working days.

Now, in case there are no restrictions, any reasonable documentation can be required from your employees and always make sure to consistently apply the policy of your company.

Furthermore, remember that some laws also restrict the kind of medical information you can ask from your employees - you are also obliged to keep these medical documentations, victim status, and/or health information confidential and separated from the personnel file of the employee.


10. Requiring Employees to Give Notice When Going on a Sick Leave

In many employment laws, particularly in Chicago, an employer can ask employees to submit a reasonable notice when an employee can foresee the need to go on a sick leave.

However, if the need to use sick leaves cannot be foreseen, you can require your employees to submit a notice as soon as it is possible or let them follow the standard operating procedure for announcing absences that are unscheduled - calling the immediate supervisor before the scheduled duty starts.

Also, take note that the notice requirements must follow the relevant legislation and should be conveyed in a written policy to your employees.


11. Reinstating Employees to Their Positions from Sick Leaves

In many employment laws, employees are generally entitled to their job after their sick leave period.

Thus, you are required to reinstate an employee to his or her position before he or she has gone to a sick leave. If the position is not available anymore, you are required to put the employee into an equivalent or comparable position bearing the same seniority, terms and conditions of employment, benefits, and pay.


12. Paid Sick Leaves for Remote Employees

Some employers have companies located in states that do not currently demand paid sick leaves for their employees. However, they hire people who remotely live and work in a state that does.

Now, it is important to remember that most employment laws for state and local paid sick leaves are generally applied on the location the employee works.


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