Connecticut Significantly Expanded Paid Sick Leave for Employees Starting January 1, 2025.  Will Your Business be Ready?
sick leave

The General Assembly significantly expanded Connecticut’s paid sick leave law this term, but the changes do not take effect until January 1, 2025, and then become fully implemented as of January 1, 2027.  While the most discussed changes include expanding paid sick leave from just “service workers” to almost every employee in Connecticut by 2027, there are many hidden pitfalls within the new law.  This article focuses on those nuances that all employers will need to be aware of by January.  And, of course, your policies will need to be adapted to reflect these changes.

Arguably the most controversial change is that the law prohibits an employer for requiring documentation for the need for sick leave.  This draconian provision is discussed in more detail below.

A summary of some of the most significant changes are:

  • The law expands who is entitled to paid sick leave from “services workers” to almost all private employees.
  • The law will apply to every Connecticut employer, but is phased in as follows:
    • As of January 1, 2025, the law applies to any employer with twenty-five (25) or more employees in Connecticut.
    • As of January 1, 2026, it applies to any employer with eleven (11) or more employees in the state.
    • Finally, as of January 1, 2027, all businesses that employ at least one (1) Connecticut employee are covered.
  • The only employees excepted from the law are:
    • Seasonal employees (defined as an employee who works 120 days or less in any year), and
    • Individuals who are members of a construction-related tradesperson employee organization that is a party to a multiemployer health plan in which more than one employee is required to contribute to the plan and where the plan is maintained pursuant to one or more collective bargaining agreements.
  • Employers can offer other paid leave in lieu of just sick leave, or a combination of other paid leave, that may be used for any purpose, but must be offered under the same conditions as provided for under the law. This includes paid vacation, personal days or paid time off, including unlimited paid time off, which may be treated as sick leave for purposes of compliance with the law.

The law expands many of the current definitions.  The definition of a “child” now includes not only a biological, adopted or foster child and a legal ward of the employee, but also “an individual to whom the employee stood in loco parentis when the individual was a child.”  Previously, an employee could only use the paid sick leave to care for a minor child or an adult child who is incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability.  Now, the law has expanded coverage to include all adult children regardless of mental or physical disability.

Similarly, the definition of “family member” is expanded to include “spouse, sibling, child, grandparent, grandchild, or parent of an employee or an individual related to the employee by blood or affinity whose close association the employees shows to be equivalent to those family relationships.  And the definition of “parent” is expanded to mean a biological, foster or adoptive parent, stepparent, parent-in-law, legal guardian or employee or employee’s souse, individual standing in loco parentis to employee or to the employee as a child.  “Sibling” now means brother or sister on basis of blood, marriage, or adoption by a parent of the employee or foster care placement.  “Spouse” means anyone who is legally married under the laws of any state or a domestic partner registered under the laws of any state or political subdivision. 

Furthermore, employees begin to accrue sick leave upon the employee’s first day of work.  Sick leave for new employees is available on or after the 120th calendar day of such employee’s employment (eliminating the requirement that an employee must work 680 hours for their employer before they can use leave) and the law eliminates the requirement that the employee must work an average of at least 10 hours per week in the most recent completed quarter to be eligible to use leave. 

The law also accelerates the accrual of sick time.  Employees now will earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked (reduced from 40).  The law continues to allow an employee to carry over up to 40 hours of paid sick leave from current year to next year unless the employer gives the employee an amount of sick leave that meets or exceeds the statutory requirement that is available at the beginning of the next year.  However, the maximum accrual remains at 40 hours per year.  Exempt employees are now presumed to have worked 40 hours for each workweek for purposes of paid sick leave accrual, unless their normal workweek is less. 

If a company acquires or takes the place of an existing employer, each employee retains and may use all paid sick leave accrued or received while employed by the original employer. 

Finally, an employer cannot require an employee using paid sick leave to search for or find a replacement for the employee’s scheduled hours.

Per the law, the reasons that an employee can use paid sick leave has expanded to now include:

  1. An employee’s own illness, injury or health condition, medical diagnosis, care or treatment of mental or physical illness, injury or health condition, preventative medical care for an employee’s mental or physical health or mental health wellness day;
  2. An employees’ family member for illness injury or health condition, medical diagnosis, care or treatment of mental or physical illness, injury or health condition, preventative medical care;
  3. Closure by order of public official due to public health emergency at the employer’s place of business or a family members school or place of care;
  4. A determination by a health authority, an employer of the employee or family member or health care provider that the employee or his/her family members pose a risk to the health of others due to exposure to a communicable illness whether or not the individual has actually contracted the illness; and
  5. Leave due to family violence or sexual assault including to an employee’s family members.

One of the most concerning new provisions is the prohibition that “No employer shall require an employee to provide any documentation that such leave is being taken for one of the purposes permitted under subsection (a) of this section.”  This leaves employers unable to determine or address employees who may abuse paid sick leave by using it for non-approved reasons.  Ostensibly, an employee’s mental health wellness day leave can be for any reason the employee desires since the employer may not ask for documentation regarding the requested leave.  And if an employee takes leave on a Monday or Friday or before or after a holiday weekend, the employer apparently has no means to prevent that from occurring.  Importantly, current policies that prohibit employees from taking such leave will need to be changed effective January 1, 2025.

Additionally, employers who choose to provide PTO or other paid leave in lieu of the paid sick leave, must do so on the same terms as required by the new law so the prohibitions against requiring documentation for the leave would apply to PTO leave, as well. 

Finally, each employer must provide written notice of this law to each employee not later than January 1, 2025, or at the time of hire, whichever is later.  If there is no physical workplace, or if employees telecommute, the employer can send such info via electronic communication or by conspicuously posting the information on a web-based or application-based platform.  And, employers are required to maintain, for a minimum of three years, a record of the number of hours, if any, of paid sick leave accrued and paid sick leave used during the calendar year.

So, prior to January 1, 2025, it is important for employers to review their policies to ensure compliance with this new law.  This is equally important for employers who already provide paid time off in lieu of sick leave as those policies must now comply with all the requirements of this law -- including the provisions prohibiting an employer from requesting documentation of the need for the leave and the expanded reasons for which paid sick leave may be taken. 

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