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State Leave Laws: What You Need to Know

Published on 1/31/2019 12:00:00 AM
Required Employee Handouts for Businesses?

For HR managers and small business owners who are compliance sensitive and want to stay current on employment laws, being informed on the various emerging state leave laws is critical.

When it comes to job-protected employee leave, we usually refer to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This federal law permits eligible employees to take unpaid leave for a variety of reasons, including a serious health condition (their own or a family member’s), the birth or adoption of a child, and military caregiver service.

On the state and local level, however, governments have recently passed their own laws giving employees greater leave rights than federal laws. These laws address issues not covered at the federal level and vary widely by location, so it’s imperative you’re aware of, and permit, these legally protected leaves of absence.

A Closer Look at Emerging State Leave Laws

The following represent trending state leave laws:

Safe Leave (or Leave for Safe Time) refers to paid leave that can be used to address instances of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking committed against employees or their family members. The leave can be used to obtain medical records or manage mental health needs; receive services from a victim services organization; obtain legal services or attend legal proceedings; and temporarily relocate as a result of being victimized by one or more of these crimes. Details of Safe Leave laws vary depend on which state(s) your company conducts business.

Pregnancy Leave. Federal law forbids discrimination based on pregnancy with any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training and fringe benefits, such as leave and health insurance. However, state laws often provide more protections than federal law, and some states have specific laws that apply to situations a woman may experience during pregnancy, such as being temporarily unable to perform her job due to a medical condition related to that pregnancy. An employer may have to provide a reasonable accommodation for a disability related to pregnancy. A small number of states, for example, have passed laws allowing certain employees to take paid pregnancy leave.

Parental Leave is an employee benefit in certain states that provides approved time off for the birth, adoption or care of a child or dependent. Parental leave is for both parents, whether they’re biological or adoptive. This time is dedicated to settling the new child into the family. Both parents can take a parental leave, after their maternity and paternity leave, at the same time or at different times, even if they have the same employer. In California, for couples made up of two women, the partner of the biological mother has a right to paternity and parental leave. However, the child must have been born in the context of what the law calls a parental project and the name of the partner must appear on the act of birth.

Other Protected Absences at the State Level

Depending on your state, employee leave laws may differ from the FMLA in that they apply to smaller employers (less than 50), have less stringent requirements for employee eligibility, expand the definition of a serious health condition, apply to individuals other than immediate family members, require paid leave instead of unpaid leave, and provide leave for additional reasons.

Situations covered beyond the scope of the FMLA may include:

  • School activities related to a child’s educational advancement, including parent-teacher conferences and counseling sessions
  • Jury duty or court hearings
  • Blood, marrow or organ donation
  • Accompanying a child or elderly relative to routine medical or dental appointments
  • Time off to vote
  • Emergency duty as a volunteer firefighter, reserve peace officer or disaster/rescue worker

Staying on top of both federal and state protected employee absences is the best way to stay compliant — and is just one aspect of managing employee time-off.

Simplify Time Off Requests with the Time Off Request App

The Time Off Request Smart App from HRdirect provides your employees self-service access to submit time off requests electronically. You’ll receive a notification when a request is submitted, at which point you can approve or deny the request. By using this convenient, web-based app, you can avoid confusion and clutter; enable employees to track their own requests; and enforce fair and consistent time-off policies. ​​

Jaime Lizotte
Presented by: Jaime Lizotte,
HR Solutions Manager
Hiring, recordkeeping, time and attendance tracking, employee discipline, filing 1099 and W2s ... all of these tasks create overhead expenses and detract from revenue-generating activities.