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Eight Ways to Adjust Your Company’s Paid Leave Policy to Comply with Montgomery County’s Sick and Safe Leave Law

Montgomery County’s Sick and Safe Leave law goes into effect on October 1, 2016. By now, most employers have heard of the law and understand that it requires employers with five or more employees to provide 56 hours of paid leave to employees on an annual basis.

However, there are some aspects of the law these Montgomery County employers may not realize will require them to update their policies. Here are eight things they may need to do to bring their paid leave policies into compliance:

1. Allow for Accrual of Sick Leave during Initial Probationary Period
Montgomery County employers who prohibit new employees from accruing sick leave during their probationary period must amend their policy as the Sick and Safe leave law requires that new employees be entitled to accrue this paid leave. However, employers are permitted to prohibit new employees from using paid sick leave during their initial probationary period of up to 90 days.

2. Adjust Accrual Rate to Meet New Minimum Threshold
The new law requires that employees earn one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Employers that provide a slower rate of accrual must update their policy to meet this threshold. However, the new law does not require employers providing more paid leave to provide less leave. Employers that are engaged in a contract or collective bargaining agreement that offers sick and safe leave above and beyond these new requirements.

3. Provide Sick Leave to Part-Time and Temporary Employees
Some employers choose to not provide sick leave to their part-time employees, but this must change under the new law. After October 1, only employees who work less than 8 hours per week, or those that: (i) do not have a regular work schedule with the employer, (ii) only are required to work when they contact the employer for work assignments and are scheduled to work within 48 hours, and (iii) are not employed by a temporary placement agency are exempt from accruing paid sick leave. Part-time employees will accrue leave at the same rate (one hour for every 30 hours worked) as full-time employees.

4. Allow Employees Who Accrue Leave to Carry it Over
Employers providing leave on an accrual basis must permit employees to rollover up to 56 hours of unused sick leave to the following year and must be able to use up to 80 hours of leave in any given year. Employers providing all leave for the year upfront have no roll over requirements.

5. Allow Employees to Use Leave in Small Increments
Employers must allow employees to take sick leave in the smallest increment that the employer’s payroll system uses to account for absences or work time, which cannot be greater than four-hour increments.

6. Adjust Policy to Provide use of Paid Leave for the Situations Set Forth in New Law
Employers must permit paid leave to be used for the purposes specified in the law. To ensure compliance employers should specifically include these purposes in their policy:

  • Treating the employee’s physical or mental illness, injury, or condition;
  • Obtaining preventative medical care for the employee or a covered family member;
  • Caring for a covered family member with a mental or physical illness, injury, or condition;
  • Closing of the employer’s place of business or an employee’s covered family member’s school or child care center due to a public health emergency;
  • Caring for a covered family member when a health care provider has determined that the family member has a communicable disease that would jeopardize the health of others in the community; or
  • Missing work due to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking of the employee/ covered family member, where the leave is used during temporary relocation of the employee/ covered family member, or to obtain legal or medical services for the employee/ covered family member.

7. Revise the Definition of Family Member
As explained in No. 6 above, the law requires employers to provide paid leave to employees due to various needs of a covered family member. As the law defines covered family member in a more expansive way than existing federal family medical leave laws, employers may need to update their policies to reflect this definition of family member for purposes of paid Sick and Safe Leave:

  • Child: biological child, adopted child, foster child, stepchild, child for whom the employee has legal or physical custody or guardianship, child for whom the employee is the primary caregiver;
  • Parent: biological, adoptive, foster, stepparent, legal guardian of the employee, or person who served as the primary caregiver of the employee when the employee was a minor;
  • Spouse;
  • Grandparent & Grandparent’s Spouse;
  • Grandchild; and
  • Sibling & Sibling’s Spouse: biological, adopted, or foster sibling of the employee.

8. Add the Required Anti-Retaliation Provision
The law requires employers to notify employees of their entitlement to leave under this law. In addition to explaining how sick and safe leave is accrued and how it may be used, the law also requires employers to notify employees that the employer may not retaliate against an employee for exercising their rights under the law and provide information about the employee’s right to file a complaint with the Montgomery County Office of Human Rights for any violation of the law.

Julie Reddig is an employment attorney who counsels management on issues involving employment and the workplace, including defending against wage and hour investigations by state and federal officials, and claims made by current and former employees. For more information on Montgomery County’s new Sick and Safe Leave Act , contact Julie at (301) 961-6099 or jareddig@lerchearly.com.

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This content is for your information only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Please consult your attorney before acting on any information contained here.

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