Everyone needs occasional time off from work due to illness, child care or even to care for a family member. Connecticut paid leave law guarantees the right of employees to take both paid time off and unpaid leave without risking their jobs. All Connecticut employers are legally required to provide this leave, and you should ask for legal advice from a qualified Connecticut employment attorney if you think it’s being wrongfully denied to you.
Connecticut Paid Sick Leave Requirements
Connecticut paid sick leave laws and statutes require all private sector employers with at least 50 eligible employees in the state to offer certain family and medical paid leave benefits. Whether a company has the required number of employees is based on payroll records for the week including October 1 each year. So a company with 50 employees on the payroll as of October 1 one year must provide paid sick time during the following calendar year.
“When the new law was initially rolled out, the Connecticut Department of Labor made a valiant effort to educate employers on new employee benefits,” says Gary Phelan
, an attorney
at Mitchell & Sheahan in Stratford. “Their effort is one of the reasons why I don’t think there has really been that many problems with respect to the statute.”
Phelan believes the statute has made citizens more aware that not every employer offered sick days before or the employers had a sick leave policy. “I think people were surprised to see the number of employers in different service occupations where there really weren’t sick days,” he says.
Each covered employee earns one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours per 365-day period or calculated every calendar quarter. An employee may also “carry over” or accrual up to 40 hours of unused hours of sick leave to the following year. The employer is allowed to set its own “year” for purposes of calculating leave, so it is possible the 365-period will start on a date other than January 1.
When and How to Use Paid Leave
An employee can only use earned sick leave after completing 680 hours of employment eligibility. Leave itself may be used on account of the employee’s own medical diagnosis, injury or serious health condition, or that of their spouse or child. An employee may also use paid sick leave if they have been a victim of family violence, sexual abuse, sexual assault or domestic violence and need to seek medical care or a victim services organization.
An employer may require advance notice of leave if the employee’s reasons are “foreseeable” and qualify for the leave program. Otherwise, the employee may be required to give notice as soon as is practical depending on the situation. The employer may further require documentation from a health care or similar professional if the employee takes more than three consecutive days of paid leave.
Unpaid Family and Medical Leave
Separately, both federal and state law further protect the rights of employees to take unpaid “family and medical leave.” This leave covers not only illness or injury, but events such as childbirth or adoption, as well as caring for an elderly parent. Connecticut law requires private employers with at least 75 employees to offer unpaid leave. (Federal law has a lower threshold of 50 employees.)
Under Connecticut rules, an employee with at least 1,000 hours worked during the previous year for a covered employer may take up to 16 weeks of unpaid leave over a 24-month period. This is actually more generous for employees than federal law, which requires at least 1,250 hours of service and only requires 12 months of unpaid leave over a 12-month period.
“This really helps with more of the hourly, non-exempt workers—particularly single mothers whose job can be in jeopardy because of a child being sick,” says Phelan. “[Before], there was no legal protection, and an employer could say, ‘You’re fired.’”