Employment laws can be a small business’s Achilles’ heel; they can make or break you. Compliance is a lynchpin to any organization’s success, but it can be the most difficult to achieve. There are dozens of federal, state and local laws that employers need to abide by. They encompass everything from hiring and firing employees, offering benefits, paying employees, taxes, and the list goes on and on.
Employee leave laws fall under that umbrella. While federal regulations pertaining to employee leave laws are few, state and local leave laws abound. And no one understands how complicated and overwhelming complying with these laws can be better than the small business owner.
So, we compiled a brief list of leave laws that may have federal, state or local laws requiring employers to offer specific types of leave under certain circumstances. This certainly does not include every leave law around so it is best to learn which laws specifically apply to your business and location.
Bereavement leave provides employees time away from work to grieve the loss of a close family member. Generally employees use this time to travel, prepare for or attend funerals and take care of other necessary matters after a death. There is no federal law requiring employers to offer bereavement leave (paid or unpaid) to employees. Illinois and Oregon have bereavement laws for certain employers and under certain circumstances, but it’s best to check your sate or municipality for applicable bereavement laws.
Crime victims’ leave
If you are a victim of a crime or must serve as a witness of crime in court, many states do have laws that require employers to offer time off for employees to handle legal matters related to these issues. The specifics regarding eligibility for the time off depend on whether an employee was subpoenaed to appear in court, etc.
Domestic/sexual violence victim’s leave
Fifteen states have laws allowing victims of domestic violence time off work. Laws vary based on how much time is taken off, reasons for the leave, whether it is paid or unpaid, etc. Employees may be able to use FMLA leave if they need to take more time off work. Employers and employees should consult HR departments or consultants to understand how different leave laws interact with each other.
Family and Medical Leave (FMLA)
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that entitles employees that work for an eligible employer to take extended unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons. Employees that qualify for FMLA leave can take up to 12 unpaid workweeks in a 12-month period with job protection and group health insurance coverage. Reasons for using FMLA leave include:
- Birth of a child/newborn care within one year of birth
- Adopting a child or foster care child within one year of placement
- Care for spouse, child or parent with a serious health condition
- Employee has a serious health condition that makes them unable to perform their job
- Military family leave
FMLA only applies to employers that have at 50 or more employees working within 75 miles of each other. Eligible employees must have worked for at least one year or 1,250 hours in the past year. While FMLA leave is unpaid, employees can use accrued paid sick, vacation or PTO leave while on FMLA leave. Employers should consult state and local policies for any added requirements or benefits related to FMLA leave.
Family military leave
Technically, family military leave falls under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Generally this portion of the law allows employees that are spouses or family members of a member of the armed forces or reserves to deal with issues related to deployment (qualifying exigency leave) or to care for an ill or injured service member or veteran (military caregiver leave). Business owners should check to see whether family military leave laws apply to their business.
Jury duty leave
The Federal Jury System Improvement Act requires employers to provide unpaid leave to employees reporting to federal jury duty (this may vary for exempt employees paid a salary). Jury duty is directed by law so most states are required to offer unpaid leave. Some states may require employers to provide paid leave. It is best to check at the city and county level as jury duty leave laws can very so greatly. because they vary so greatly.
Military service/veterans’ leave
Disabled Veteran Leave allows disabled veterans to take up to 104 hours of leave to undergo treatment related to their disability. The Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act of 2015 outlines which veterans are eligible for this type of leave.
Organ donation leave
In the event an employee serves as a bone-marrow, blood, or organ donor, they may be entitled to paid or unpaid leave to recover. There is no federal law requiring employers to offer organ donation leave. Many states or localities may have laws outlining such a policy.
Paid family leave
Paid family leave (PDL) is different than paid sick leave or unpaid FMLA leave. Generally it covers lost wages for the time an employee is away from work to take care of a family member. There are no federal regulations requiring employers to offer it, and only a few states have laws pertaining to it: California, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington. Additionally, there are federal regulations that determine taxation practices for income received during PDL.
Paid sick leave (paid sick and safe leave)
This is different than paid time off (PTO) and vacation time. Generally, this time is used for employees to visit the doctor, recuperate from an illness, or sometimes take care of sick family members. There is no federal law requiring employers to offer paid sick leave, however, these states require employers offer paid sick leave:
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- Rhode Island
Check your state’s laws to understand the nuances of each like how many hours employers are required to provide, whether they can request a sick note from a doctor, or how hours are accrued. Best practice is to check local and county laws as well. Employees that need to, can take extended, unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
In some areas, paid sick leave is grouped with “safe leave.” Safe leave is paid leave employees can use in instances of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or to receive treatment for any of those things (also referred to as domestic or sexual violence victim’s leave (see above)).
Pregnancy disability leave
Pregnancy disability leave allows for employees to take time off because of pregnancy, childbirth or conditions related to those when they are unable to perform their work duties. State disability insurance (SDI) could be used in conjunction with or instead of pregnancy disability leave. It is advised to work with HR department or consultant to determine how employees can use these laws and maternity leave policies work together.
Some states may provide time for parents to attend school-related events and activities for their children, including the following:
- District of Columbia
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
Time off to vote
There is no federal law that requires employers to give their employees paid time off to vote. Currently, 32 states have voter leave laws (paid or unpaid time off). Some employers may give an hour or three hours of paid leave to get to the polls; the specifics depend on state, locality, and employer.
The burden of complying with regulations and laws, whether federal, state or local, rests on the shoulders of small business owner. Complexity of complying with regulations can often be too much for business owners to handle alone. Not to mention the cost of complying is high, and the cost of non-compliance can be even higher (think employee lawsuits).
A Professional Employer Organization (PEO) like XcelHR helps small business owners manage compliance and risk associated with HR, payroll, benefits, and recruiting. We can help you assess blind spots and course correct so you don’t run into any unexpected costs or issues. To learn more about how we can help you, get in touch with one of our business consultants here.