As has been widely reported, the Montgomery County Council on June 24 enacted a bill requiring employers in Montgomery County to provide paid sick leave to their employees. The law has been described as one of the most employee friendly laws of its kind in the country. The provisions of the law, which will go into effect October 1 of 2016, are found in Chapter 27 of the amendments to the County Code. Some highlights of the law are as follows.
The law in general requires all employers operating and doing business in the County to provide earned sick and safe leave to their employees. For employers who employ 5 or more employees, they must provide 1 hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 56 hours per calendar year. Employers with less than 5 employees must provide the same number of leave hours, but only 32 of those must be paid. The term employee is defined to exclude, among other things, individuals who do not have a regular work schedule with the employer.
The leave may be used by the employee to care for or treat that person’s mental or physical illness, injury or condition. It also may be used to care for such conditions in a family member, broadly defined to include among others the employee’s child or person in his or her custody, spouse, parent or grandparent. The Act provides that the leave may be used to obtain preventive medical care, and may also be used in cases of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking to obtain medical attention, assistance from victim’s rights organizations or legal services.
The new law does require the employee to request leave as soon as practicable after determining a need for leave, to notify the employer of the anticipated duration of leave, and to comply with the employer’s reasonable procedures for requesting and taking leave. The employer cannot require the employee to disclose the details of any illness, injury or condition or violate HIPAA requirements of privacy. It does allow the employer to require an employee who uses more than 3 days consecutive leave to document that leave was used appropriately. An employer can decide to grant leave at the beginning of the year, in which case it does not have to allow the leave to carry over into the next calendar year, but if leave is only granted as earned then it must be allowed to carry over.
The law includes notice requirements to employees, record keeping requirements, and enforcement provisions. An employer who has written policies, which all are advised to implement, may also provide that unused sick leave need not be paid upon termination of employment. The delay in the effective date of the law will hopefully allow County employers to implement policies to comply with this new law.