State and Local Paid Sick Leave Laws Gain Traction

Over the past year, the series of federal laws requiring (or strongly incentivizing) most private employers to provide COVID-19 related paid sick leave has been groundbreaking. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, no federal laws or regulations required private employers to provide any amount of paid sick leave under any circumstance. However, this federal legislation has stopped short of imposing a permanent paid sick leave mandate.  COVID-19 related paid sick leave requirements expired December 31, 2020. Barring a resurgence in the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress will likely allow COVID-19 related paid sick leave employer tax incentives, which were recently extended through September 30, 2021, to expire this fall.

Nonetheless, 14 states and the District of Columbia (including New Jersey), and countless local governments (like the City of Philadelphia) currently have paid sick leave laws on the books, and the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a broader conversation on the potential public policy benefits of mandatory paid sick leave in other jurisdictions. Although not yet signed into law, a paid sick leave bill recently passed the New Mexico State Senate, and similar bills are reportedly gaining traction in Illinois, Nebraska, and Oregon. Most of these laws allow (or would allow) employees to gradually accrue paid sick leave, based on the number of hours an employee works, up to a set annual limit.  For example, the pending New Mexico paid sick leave bill would allow employees to accrue one (1) hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 64 paid sick leave hours per year.

Many state and local jurisdictions that already require paid sick leave under ordinary circumstances are raising the federal floor on COVID-19 specific mandates. For instance, California Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed a supplemental COVID-19 paid sick leave bill into law. The Philadelphia City Council is also moving closer to passing legislation that would require certain employers to provide public health emergency leave protections to employees for COVID-19 related reasons.