State vs. Cities: The Wage Hour Fight Continues

Localities such as cities or counties have been enacting their own wage and hour requirements for quite a few years now.  Dozens of cities in California and New Jersey have their own sick leave laws as well as higher than state minimum wages.  New Mexico has local minimum wages as does Washington.  But it seems the state legislators are starting to fight back.  With the assistance of groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bills (draft legislation that legislators may customize and introduce) have passed in several states.  The latest states to pass such legislation are Arkansas and Iowa.  These bill basically forbid the local governments from passing any type of law relating to minimum wage, living minimum rates, employment leave or benefits, hiring practices or any condition of employment that is more generous than the federal or state law.  Whether cities will fight back in the courts, or if they even can, remains to be seen. Miami Beach recently tried to establish its own minimum wage despite Florida having passed its own version of the ALEC legislation.  The court struck down the Miami Beach ordinance. So the fight continues.  Payroll professionals need to monitor local minimum wage and sick leave ordinances to ensure compliance but remember these ordinances can be fleeting if the state has passed the ALEC-style legislation.

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Sick Leave Reaches Record High

The push for mandated sick leave has been intense in recent years.  But it appears it is paying off for workers. According to today’s U.S. Department of Labor Blog, on July 22nd the Bureau of Labor Statistics released some very interesting news about sick leave.  Over the past year, the share of private industry workers with access to at least one day of paid sick leave increased from 61 percent to 64 percent.  This is the highest on record.  Further, the increase between 2015 and 2016 was almost entirely due to an increase in access among workers in low-wage occupations, that is, workers in occupations with average wages in the bottom 25 percent. This is the result, it appears, of the national momentum on mandated paid sick leave that has taken place in states and in localities. For example, the biggest increase in access to paid sick days over the last year was in the Pacific Census Division, which includes Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington state. In this set of states, the share of private industry workers with access to paid sick leave jumped up 12 percentage points – from 61 percent to 73 percent – between March 2015 and March 2016, the same period in which both California and Oregon implemented new statewide paid sick time laws.

Payroll Needs To Own Sick Pay And Now!

Very rarely are payroll people political in the payroll office. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have our own political views but most of the time we are concerned with compliance rather than legislation. But in this one instance, in my opinion, payroll needs to become political. And what is this area… Sick leave!

We all know the politics and statistics. United States is the only developed country that has no national paid sick leave mandate. However this is becoming a national issue especially for payroll. Because the federal government has not implemented a national program, over the past year more and more cities, counties, and states are implementing mandatory sick leave policies.

In the last couple of months alone, as the subscribers to The Payroll Pause, have found out, the state of Oregon, Montgomery County, Maryland, and Emeryville, California have all implemented sick leave policies.

This is why payroll needs to get involved. This hodgepodge of different sick leave programs between different cities, even within the same state is going to become, if it hasn’t already, a logistical nightmare for payroll. Gone are the days when companies or their employees stayed in one state or even one city. We now have hundreds of thousands of employees who work in two or more cities or states on a regular basis. The taxation requirements for multi-state employees are difficult enough without having to add sick leave requirements to the mix.

What we need is payroll professionals to contact their representatives to get a national program. It doesn’t matter which side you’re on. Maybe you believe that all employees should have paid sick leave or maybe you believe it should to be left up to the employer. The point is that is no longer an important argument because the sick leave movement is here and whether you’re in favor of it or not it is coming to your payroll department city by city, county by county, and state-by-state. So rather than wait to have to deal with hundreds of different sick leave policies, depending on whether it’s state or local why not have one national policy? Payroll should stand up and say “hey can we have just one policy here?” If you don’t want to do it because you don’t believe in the sick leave movement, then do it for your own peace of mind and workload.

That’s my payroll opinion. What do you think? Post your comments on this topic and let’s get a dialogue of payroll professionals going on this important issue.


Tacoma, WA Enacts Mandatory Sick Leave

The Paid Leave Ordinance for Tacoma, WA was approved on January 27, 2015 and is effective February 1, 2016.  The ordinance applies to all employees who work within the geographical boundaries of Tacoma for 80 hours or more in a calendar year. All employees, whether full-time, part-time or temporary will earn one hour for every 40 hours worked within Tacoma up to 24 hours within a calendar year.  Employee may use the paid leave 180 days after the start of employment and may carry forward up to 24 hours of unused paid leave in the next year.  But if carried over the employee’s use of paid leave is limited to 40 hours in that year. Information on how the leave may be used and setting up policies can be found on the City’s website.

Eugene, OR Sick Leave on the Way

Eugene, OR has officially entered the paid sick leave arena.  Under legislation enacted on July 28, 2014 and effective July 1, 2015 most employers operating a business within the city limits must begin accruing paid sick leave for all employees working within the city. Exceptions to the law include state, city (other the Eugene) and federal government employees and employers in the building and construction industry whose employees are covered under a collective bargaining unit or agreement.

All employees include part-time, temporary and telecommuting (if physically located within the city).  They must earn a minimum of one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours of paid work performed within the city up to a maximum of 40 hours of sick leave in a year.  Employees begin accruing leave on July 1, 2015 or the start of their employment, which ever is later. But they must be employed by the employer for 90 days to become eligible to begin using the accrued sick time.  Unused sick leave must carry over to the next year.  Employees may be limited to use no more than 40 hours per year of sick leave.

The city will be offering training sessions on the new law through the state Bureau of Labor & Industry starting in April.

Reference Book Recommendation

I am constantly asked for recommendations for products from webinar attendees and even through e-mails.  These range from reference guides to entire payroll systems. Normally I never recommend products or books or really anything including payroll systems and software. Why don’t I you might ask? Its very simple… I am not paid to do so, so why should I.   That sounds harsh I know.  But I also think it kind of cheapens a recommendation when it is given if that person constantly keeps recommending everything from soup to nuts because they are paid to do so. Though the money would be nice, if I am being honest, but no one has approached me with a check to recommend their product or book or system so I don’t, it’s that simple. Even with that in mind, there is one area that I am asked repeatedly for the same recommendation. This area is  California wage and hour law. I am constantly asked by webinar attendees and others if I know of a good, reliable source on California wage and hour law. Especially lately because of the the new sick leave law that is now effective. The answer is always, yes I do.  So I am going to break one of my little rules and make a recommendation for this one topic…free of charge.  For a top-notch reference on California wage and hour law I recommend the Wage and Hour Manual for California Employers by Richard J. Simmons. The 18th edition has just come out which covers the new California sick leave law and I have already bought my copy (I paid full price like everyone else).  I have used this manual since the early 90s and it has been a staple in my reference library.  If I get a question on California wage and hour law it is the one source I go to.  For full disclosure I do know Richard Simmons on a first name basis to say hello to but that is all.  We have served as speakers for the same conferences and I attend his personal wage and hour law seminars every couple of years to update my knowledge on this difficult subject.  But he has never approached me for a recommendation on his books.  I just use them and I want to pass this along to other payroll professionals who may need a reference guide in this area. simmons

Philly Joins the Mandatory Sick Leave Club

Philadelphia, PA has joined the group of states and cities that have mandated sick leave for workers.  Mayor Michael A. Nutter signed legislation on February 12th that requires workers employed by a business or organization with 10 or more employees must earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked up to a minimum of 40 hours of sick leave in a calendar year. Employers with fewer than 10 employees must provide unpaid sick leave to employees.  A chain establishment will be required to provide paid sick leave regardless of the number of employees in a particular establishment. Employers will have to display a sick leave poster that will be provided by the city in the workplace, update their handbooks to include the sick leave provisions and provide notice to employees that they are eligible for paid sick leave.

Businesses with existing leave policies that meet the minimum paid sick leave accrual standards and other requirements within the legislation will not have to change their policies or provide for additional leave time.

The ordinance takes effect 90 days from February 12, 2015.