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Paid Leave Laws Continue To Gain Momentum

Publications - Client Alert | April 21, 2016

Earlier this month the city of San Francisco and the state of New York made headlines by passing the most generous paid family leave laws in the country. California Governor Jerry Brown also approved an amendment to his state’s paid sick leave law, which will extend leave to a category of previously excluded employees. The paid parental leave ordinance (the SF Ordinance), the paid family leave benefits law (the NY Law) and changes to California’s paid sick leave law are summarized below.

San Francisco, California

On April 5, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors approved a measure guaranteeing most workers six weeks of fully paid parental leave. The ordinance, which still needs to be signed into law by the city’s mayor, applies to mothers and fathers who either bear or adopt a child. California already provides paid parental leave to new parents; employees may currently take six weeks of paid time off at 55% of their regular wages, up to $1,129 per week, in order to bond with a new child or care for a seriously ill family member. (Governor Brown recently approved a measure that will increase these benefit amounts beginning in 2018.) The existing state disability insurance program is employee-financed. The new SF Ordinance mandates full pay, with the 45% difference to be paid by employers.

Covered Employees & Employers

A covered employee is any employee, including a part-time or temporary employee, who (1) has worked for a covered employer for at least 180 days; (2) performs at least eight hours of work each week in the city of San Francisco; (3) works at least 40% of his or her weekly hours in the city; and (4) is eligible to receive paid leave benefits under the state disability insurance program to bond with a new child. All employers, other than the city or a governmental entity, with 20 or more employees will eventually be impacted by the SF Ordinance.

Effective Dates

The ordinance will take effect January 1, 2017 for employers with 50 or more employees, regardless of location. Smaller employers (those with 35 or more workers, regardless of location) will need to comply with the ordinance beginning July 1, 2017. Employers with 20 or more employees have until January 1, 2018 to comply.

State of New York

Under the NY Law, eligible employees will be able to take 8-12 weeks of paid leave to care for a family member who has a serious health condition, to bond with a child during the first 12 months after the child’s birth or within 12 months of adoption or foster care with the employee, or to deal with the active military service of a spouse, domestic partner, parent or child. Family members include an employee’s spouse or domestic partner, child, parent, grandchild and grandparent.

Covered Employees & Employers

The NY Law will apply to all full- and part-time employees who have worked for a covered employer for 26 or more weeks. Covered employers include any entity with one or more persons in employment but exclude the state and political subdivisions.

Effective Dates

The NY Law will take effect January 1, 2018. At that time, covered employees will be able to take eight weeks of family leave at 50% of their annual wage rate, up to one-half of the state’s average weekly wage. The amount of leave and the percentage of pay that eligible employees may receive will increase annually until 2021, at which point employees will be able to take 12 weeks of family leave at 67% of their annual wage rate, up to 67% of the state’s average weekly wage. Leave will be funded entirely by employee payroll deductions.

State of California

Under the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, employees who work in California for the same employer for 30 or more days a year are entitled to accrue and use paid sick leave. The Act currently excludes from its definition of “employee” individuals who provide in-home supportive services. The recently approved Senate Bill No. 3 will entitle in-home supportive service workers in California to paid sick days beginning July 1, 2018.

Additional Information

If you have any questions about these laws, please contact your Kutak Rock attorney or a member of the Kutak Rock employee benefits practice group listed below.