Connecticut Expands Paid Sick and Safe Leave Uses

On June 26, 2023, Connecticut’s governor signed SB 2, which expands the reasons covered employees can use leave under the state’s paid sick and safe leave law, effective October 1, 2023.

Quick Refresher on Connecticut Paid Sick and Safe Leave. Connecticut was an early adopter of mandatory paid sick and safe leave. The 2012 law, which allows covered employees to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours per year, is, however, narrower than others across the country. For example, it applies only to employers with 50 or more Connecticut employees and excludes most manufacturers (as classified in sector 31, 32 or 33 in the North American Industrial Classification System) and certain non-profits. Additionally, the law limits covered employees to “service workers”—those employees primarily engaged in a variety of broadly defined occupations listed by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Standard Occupational Classification System, who are either paid on an hourly basis or are classified as nonexempt under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Covered employees fall broadly in industries such as retail, healthcare, hospitality, custodial, and food service.

Expanded Leave Uses. SB 2 expands covered uses in two ways: First, service workers can use “sick” leave for a “mental health wellness day,” i.e., a day during which the individual attends to their emotional and psychological well-being instead of working their regularly scheduled shift. Second, in addition to taking “safe” leave if they personally are a victim of family violence or sexual assault, service workers can take such leave if they are a parent or guardian of a child who is a victim – provided the employee is not the (alleged) perpetrator – for medical care or psychological or other counseling for physical or psychological injury or disability, obtaining services from a victim services organization, relocating due to family violence or sexual assault, or participating in any civil or criminal proceedings related to or resulting from family violence or sexual assault.

Next Steps. Employers have three months to review and, if necessary, revise their leave policies and practices and educate their employees on the new paid sick and safe leave uses. The amendment extending safe leave to family members who are victims of family violence or sexual assault may have limited impact on multi-state employers doing business in Connecticut that are already required to allow such leave in other jurisdictions; however, the new sick leave provision allowing for mental health days is likely new territory.  Undoubtedly, employers may be looking for guidance about what exactly it means for employees to “attend to” their emotional and psychological well-being – is this broad (i.e., anything that helps) or available only for specific (to be determined) activities? Littler will continue to monitor the Connecticut Department of Labor’s website for future guidance or regulations.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.