The COVID-19 crisis has put more than 22 million Americans out of work. But many of those who still have jobs find themselves sifting through complex laws, regulations, and corporate policies about taking time to heal if they fall ill, or to care for an ailing loved one.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act signed by President Trump in March might have filled a glaring hole in American worker protections when they were needed most. The reality is more complicated and, depending on where you work, likely disappointing.
The law requires employers with 500 workers or fewer to provide up to 80 hours off at full pay if people cannot work because of a government isolation order, a doctor’s recommendation, or because they have coronavirus symptoms and are working to obtain a diagnosis. It also entitles workers at firms of this size to the same amount of time out at two-thirds their usual pay rate if they need to care for a quarantined person, or for a child whose school has closed due to the pandemic. Those in the last category can get an extra 10 weeks of leave so long as they have been in their job at least 30 days.
But according to the most recent Census data—from 2016—a little under half of Americans employed in the private sector work at such small companies. And a 2018 Bureau of Labor Statistics found 11 percent of those workers at large businesses and nonprofits get no paid sick leave benefits through their jobs.
Even if you’re in that 11 percent, though, your state or local government may ensure your right to paid rest and recovery. Here are the parts of the U.S. where employees can get a break.
Arizona: The state’s Fair Wages and Healthy Families Act requires all employers to provide one hour of “earned paid sick time” for every 30 hours worked. Arizonans engaged at enterprises with at least 15 workers can take 40 hours of this time off each year, unless the employer allows more. Those at smaller outfits are only guaranteed the freedom to 24 of their earned hours in a 12-month period, with additional time at the boss’s discretion. Employees may take their time if sick themselves, to care for an ill family member, or due to “a public health emergency affecting the employee or a family member of the employee.”
California: The state passed the Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act in 2014, ensuring every worker an hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours on the job, and people can start taking days after three months of service. Employees can use their time for the “diagnosis, care, or treatment of an existing health condition or preventive care” for either themselves or a family member. An employer can cap their workers’ hours at 24 and days off at three per year.
Several of the Golden State’s biggest cities have their own rules, which generally mirror the statewide mandate, but differ in the number of hours workers can take and accumulate.
- Berkeley’s law enables employees at businesses of fewer than 25 people to take as many as 48 hours a year. Those at larger operations can take 72.
- Los Angeles’s city ordinance entitles all workers to take 48 hours of earned time in a year and prevents any employer from capping hours at fewer than 72.
- Oakland’s rules allow businesses with fewer than 10 employees to cap earned sick hours at 40, while bigger companies must let workers accrue up to 72.
- San Diego puts the accrual cap at 80 hours for all firms.
- San Francisco ensures workers at organizations with fewer than 10 people on staff amass at least 40 hours of sick leave, while bigger employers can’t cut them off before 72.
Connecticut: The Nutmeg State was the first in the nation to instate a paid sick leave policy, in 2012. But its rules apply only to service workers at for- and nonprofit entities with 50 people or more on the books. These employees put away an hour of sick time for every 40 hours of labor, until they have stored up 40 hours in a year. Workers can start using the time after their 680th hour on the job. Connecticut delimits care for a family member to a spouse or child.
Illinois: The state does not force employers to offer paid sick time, but requires those that do so voluntarily to permit their workers to use their leave to care for not only themselves but for a child, spouse, sibling, parent, mother-in-law or father-in-law, grandchild, grandparent, or stepparent.
- Chicago city law obligates all businesses to offer sick leave to any employee who works for 80 hours during any 120-day period. Sick time accumulates at the rate of one hour for every 40 hours on the job, though employers can cut them off after 40 hours in a 12-month period. Encompassing Cook County has a near-identical statute.
Maryland: The “Maryland Healthy Working Families Act” requires employers with 15 people or more on payroll to offer paid sick leave at the rate of one hour for every hour worked. Employees take that time for self-care, or to assist a spouse, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling. Employers do not have to grant more than 40 hours in total.
Massachusetts: Any organization with upwards of 10 employees who work more than 12 hours per week must provide up to 40 hours of compensated sick leave each year. Employees earn an hour off for every 30 hours worked, and may use it if they themselves or their child, spouse, parent, or spouse's parent becomes ill. Employers may also ask for a doctor’s note if their worker is out for more than three days in a row. The law carves out the agricultural sector, and health or human services industry employees who work on an as-needed basis.
Michigan: Employers of 50 people or more must grant paid sick leave at the rate of one hour per 35 hours worked, and let them take it as much as 40 hours in a 12-month period. Employees can take the time to care for themselves or for a parent, child, sibling, stepparent, or grandparent. Those who spend fewer than 25 hours a week on the job, or work variable hours, are cut out.
Minnesota: The state mandates organizations that provide sick leave let their workers use the time to take care of a child, spouse, sibling, parent, mother- or father-in-law, grandchild, grandparent, or stepparent.
- Minneapolis requires employers with six or more employees and have been in business for more than one year to grant sick time at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. The employer can cut them off after 40 hours in a year. They can use their time off to care for their kid, wife or husband, parent, parent-in-law, grandchild, or grandparent. This law applies even to paid interns.
- St. Paul has a twin statute, though it applies to all employers, has a 48-hour cap, and employees can use their time to care for registered domestic partners as well.
Nevada: Employees at firms of 50 people or more accrue 0.01923 hours of paid leave for each hour of work completed, and can start using the time—for any reason—after 90 hours of employment. The firm may set a maximum of 40 hours of time off over the course of a 365-day period.
New Jersey: The Garden State’s 2018 Paid Sick Leave Act obligates all entities, regardless of size, to furnish all employees with at least 40 hours of paid sick time earned at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. Workers can use this time to take care of not just themselves, their spouses, their blood relatives, their in-laws, and their adoptive family members, but their domestic and civil union partners as well.
New York: Under a new rule passed this year, employees at companies with payrolls of 11 to 99 or revenues of $1,000,001 and up are entitled to five paid sick days if they are under a COVID-19-related quarantine—and 14 days if their employer has 100 workers or more. Those who need to care for a relative can apply to the state’s paid family leave program.
- New York City’s paid sick leave law does New Jersey’s one better, allowing employees to use their time to care for not just immediate family, spouses, and domestic partners, but also former spouses and domestic partners and their parents. It applies to any enterprise with five employees or more whose workers serve at least 80 hours a year. As elsewhere, sick time accrues at one hour for every 30 hours work, with an optional cap of 40 hours in a year. Employees can start taking leave after 120 hours of work. Employers can request documentation if an employee is out three consecutive days.
- Westchester County has a substantially similar statute, though it does not include former partners in the definition of family.
Oregon: Entities with 10 or more persons in their employ must provide paid sick time. Again, employees earn an hour for every 30 hours worked. Workers can use this sick time to stay home if they or a family member falls ill—or if their child’s school is closed for a public health emergency. Employers may cut off accumulated sick time at 40 hours in a year, and request documentation if the employee is absent three consecutive days.
- Portland’s law applies to any outfit with six employees or more.
Pennsylvania: The Keystone State has no rules on paid sick leave—but its two largest cities do.
- Philadelphia’s Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces Ordinance mandates employers of 10 people or more to provide sick leave to any employee who serves at least 40 hours in a year, at the rate of one hour earned for every 40 worked. The employees may use their time to seek diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care for themselves, a spouse, a biological or adoptive nuclear relative, or their “life partner.” The employers may cap hours at 40 in a year.
- Pittsburgh, as of March 15, obligates all firms to offer paid sick leave: one hour per 35 hours worked. Those with fewer than 15 on payroll may cap time off at 24 hours: the rest have to allow at least 40. The rule carves out seasonal workers. Employees can take this time for their own health, or to care for nuclear relatives, adoptive family members, spouses, and domestic partners. Employers may request documentation after three days out.
Rhode Island: Any Ocean State employee with 17 co-workers or more earns an hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours spent on the job. Employers can limit them to five full workdays-worth of off-time. Rhode Islanders can use this time to recover themselves, or to care for their parents, grandparents, spouse, children, grandchildren, siblings, or anybody who shares their address. The state’s statute carves out health care workers who serve on an as-available basis and receive higher pay than employees in the same position with regular schedules.
Vermont: Green Mountaineers who put in at least 18 hours a week a place of vocation with five or more employees during any continuous 12-month period can earn at least 40 hours of paid sick leave. But they have to work longer to amass off-time than residents of other states: the system awards an hour of leave for every 52 hours worked. The law carves out per diem workers and those who serve intermittently at a health care facility—and employers can block their staff from taking any days until they’ve been on payroll a year. Employees may use their time to care for themselves, for a member of their nuclear family, a grandparent, sibling, or grandchild. They can also use it to watch a child whose school is closed for a public health emergency.
Washington State: Workers here earn at least an hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours of labor, and can start taking their time after 90 days on the job. Appropriate uses of sick time include to obtain or provide treatment and recovery for yourself, or for your spouse, parents, children, siblings, grandparents, or registered domestic partner. The state also allows for employees to take sick time to watch a child whose school is closed.
Washington, D.C.: All employees who spend at least half of their workday in the District are entitled to some sick time, but the amount varies with the size of their employer. Organizations with 100 or more people on the books must allot an hour of sick leave for every 37 hours, until they earn seven full days out. The statute takes an expansive view of family, allowing people to use their time to help not only blood relatives, but domestic partners, in-laws, nieces and nephews. Employers can keep workers from utilizing their earned leave for the first 90 days on the job, and request documentation after three consecutive absences.