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Vermont Legislature Passes Paid Sick Leave Bill; U.S. DOL to Issue Regulations on Paid Sick Leave

On February 17, 2016 the Vermont legislature passed House Bill 187, an act relating to absence from work for health care and safety.  The Act provides that employees who work a minimum of 18 hours per week must accrue at least one hour of “Earned Sick Time” for every 52 hours worked.  Accrued time may be used for the employee’s illness or injury, to obtain medical treatment, including routine examinations, or to care for a sick or injured family member.  The Act also allows use of earned sick time in order to arrange legal services, medical or counseling for the employee or an employee’s family member who is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.  Violations of the Act are subject to fines, up to $5000.00.

Pending the Governor’s signature, the new law is scheduled to go into effect January 1, 2017 for most employers.  Employers with less than 5 employees shall not be subject to the provisions until January 1, 2018.  Employers will be allowed to limit the amount of sick time earned to 24 hours annually until the end of 2018, when the allowed limit will increase to 40 hours annually. Employers may require a waiting period of up to one year before newly hired employees can utilize accrued time under the Act, but time accrues during that first year.  New employers are exempt for up to one year after they hire their first employee.

The law does not require employers to have a separate earned sick time scheme if the employer offers a paid time off policy that provides employees with paid time off for the reasons provided in the Act, as long as the policy provides equal or greater accrual of paid time than set forth in the Act.  The mandate does not apply to certain government, temporary and per diem employees, as defined by the Act.

Federal lawmakers are also taking action in this area.  The U.S. Department of Labor is working on regulations that will require employers who contract with the federal government to provide their employees with up to 7 days of paid sick leave annually.  The DOL expects to finalize these regulations by the end of September 2016.

If you would like guidance in determining how the new Earned Sick Time law applies to your business, or if you need assistance in drafting an Earned Sick Time policy, the Employment + Labor attorneys at Paul Frank + Collins are happy to help.