Connecticut Employment Law Blog Insight on Labor & Employment Developments for Connecticut Businesses

Evolution of a Benefit:Use of Paid Sick Leave by Employees Who Aren’t Sick Themselves

Posted in Laws and Regulations

While I take a little time off this week for the Jewish holidays, my colleague Mick Lavelle fills in with this great post about the use of paid sick leave by employees who aren’t actually sick. 

When can an employee receive sick leave pay even though the absence is not due to the employee’s own illness?

When the Family and Medical Leave Act first became effective in 1996 , it allowed eligible employees to use paid leave time accumulated under employer policies, such as vacation, medical or sick leave, for an FMLA absence.

But the Connecticut statute (Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 31-51LL) went on to say that nothing in the FMLA required an employer to provide paid sick leave in any situation in which the employer would not normally provide such paid leave.

In practice, this meant that employees could use vacation or personal time even if their FMLA absence was for the purpose of caring for a family member, because employers didn’t care what an employee did on “vacation.”

But employees could probably not use sick time if they themselves were not sick, because sick time was traditionally to allow an ill employee to stay home without forfeiting pay, rather than come to work when weak or contagious.

However, in 2003 the Connecticut FMLA was amended (Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 31-51pp) to require employers to allow an eligible employee to take up to two weeks of accumulated sick leave pay, even if the FMLA absence was to care for an eligible family member such as a child, spouse or parent (or birth or adoption of a child), rather than the employee’s illness.

In 2010, a statute was passed which required an employer to allow up to 12 days of unpaid leave for victims of family violence, (Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 31-51ss), so they could obtain medical or psychological care or counseling, obtain services from a victim services organization, relocate, or participate in civil or criminal proceedings related to the family violence.

This leave was required of all employers with three or more employees, unlike FMLA which generally is applicable to employers of 75 or more employees.

Finally, in the new paid sick leave mandate which started on January 1 of this year for employees who are service workers of an employer with 50 or more employees, mandated paid sick leave can be used to care for a child or spouse or for preventative care for a child or spouse.

In addition, paid sick leave can be used where the employee has been the victim of family violence or sexual assault and needs time off for medical care or counseling, to obtain services from a victim services organization, to relocate, or to participate in civil or criminal proceedings related to the family violence or assault.

So gradually and over time, employers have acquired responsibility for supporting employees in their personal troubles, with excused time off from work, and pay for time off. Like it or not, employers in Connecticut must ensure that their policies reflect these requirements.

If you’d like to learn more about PSL and how to deal with absent workers, Pullman & Comley LLC is sponsoring two free seminars on October 4th and 18th.