What happens when one of your locations has more than one paid leave law? GovDocs’ recent webinar, When Paid Leave Laws Collide: Locations With Multiple Laws, gave viewers an inside look at the complexity of overlapping paid leave legislation, as well as a brief update on the recent passage of emergency paid leave at the federal level.
Jana Bjorklund — GovDocs’ senior counsel and director, employment law and compliance — provided details on:
- Coronavirus emergency paid leave
- Paid leave today
- States with paid family and medical leave (PFML) and other leave laws
- What a PFML compliance checklist should look like
If you’re interested in accessing the entire webinar, you can find it here.
Emergency Coronavirus Paid Leave
Bjorklund took a few moments at the start of the webinar to cover the federal government’s recent passage of emergency paid leave.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act marked the first time in the history of the U.S. that federal paid leave has been made available. It expanded the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to cover coronavirus-related reasons and provides paid sick leave to employers of certain types of businesses.
The bill also allows for tax credits for employers who provide the benefits. Notably, however, private employers with 500 or more employees are excluded.
For a detailed look at coronavirus-related emergency paid leave, which is in effect until the end of 2020, check out our blog post.
States with Paid Family and Medical Leave
In terms of overlapping paid leave laws, many arise when a state has PFML as well as other types of paid leave.
Noting that the U.S. is one of the few countries without a national paid leave policy, Bjorklund gave a brief overview of the states with PFML:
- New Jersey
- Rhode Island
- New York
- Washington State
- Washington D.C.
Three other states have passed PFML laws that have yet to take effect. They are:
- Massachusetts (2021)
- Connecticut (2022)
- Oregon (2023)
Meanwhile, 16 other states have introduced PFML legislation and federal employees will be eligible for paid parental leave starting this October.
“This year will certainly be an interesting one for paid leave, I would imagine,” Bjorklund said. “And our current situation with COVID-19 really drives home how much a federal benefit for paid leave is needed.”
PFML and Other Leave Laws
Bjorklund discussed several factors employers should consider when paid leave laws overlap:
- Employee eligibility
- Covered family members
- Eligible reasons for leave
- Length of leave and job protection
To kick things off, Bjorklund examined California and its many paid leave laws. At the state level, there are six different types: sick leave, disability, parental leave, etc.
The definition of covered family members in California is “much more expansive than under federal FMLA,” Bjorklund said.
“If you have an employee taking family leave to care for a sibling, for example, federal FMLA will not run concurrently with the state paid family leave for that leave of absence, so you want to make sure you watch that and apply your leave appropriately.”
But even within the state’s different types of leave laws, there are discrepancies about what constitutes a family member.
“When you can run them concurrently do, but you may not always be able to based on the definition of covered family member under these laws that have been passed,” Bjorklund.
Likewise, the eligible reasons for leave in California are different depending on which law is applied.
Length of leave and job protection in California also varies based on which type of leave is being used.
“There’s so many different facets to these laws that you need to be aware of and how they interplay with each other,” Bjorklund said.
Employers should watch the reasons for leave and make sure employees are eligible for whatever leave they let the worker take, especially as it pertains to lesser-known leave laws, such as jury duty, organ donation, witness duty and others.
“Every state has these types of laws, and they’re all a little different,” Bjorklund said.
To learn more about the laws in other states that she discussed, check out the rest of the webinar to find out what happens when paid leave laws interact.
When locations have multiple paid leave laws on the books, it can be cumbersome for employers to manage the leave, eligible reasons, how much time can be taken, etc.
As the nation continues to deal with the impacts of the coronavirus, additional emphasis will likely be placed on paid leave laws among legislators and the general public. Employers should prepare for new and expanding legislation in the future.