When children come down with a cold or other illness, millions of working parents in the U.S. face a similar dilemma: should they send their children to school sick, or take off work for the day in order to keep them home or bring them to the doctor? For the nearly one in three private sector workers who lack access to any paid sick time, this can be an especially difficult choice.
Fortunately, lawmakers have begun to address this problem. In recent years, more and more jurisdictions around the country have passed laws guaranteeing workers the ability to earn paid sick time that they can use to care for themselves or family members, including children. As the school year begins, now is the perfect time to brush up on laws that may give you the right to take off work when your child is sick, without forgoing pay or being disciplined by your employer.
Currently, a total of 10 states guarantee working parents the right to use earned sick time to care for their children when they are sick or in need of preventive care such as a yearly doctor’s checkup. Those states are Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. New Jersey’s law will take effect on October 29, 2018.
In addition, dozens of localities from New York City to Chicago to Washington, D.C., and beyond also guarantee this right. Depending on where you work, you may be covered by both a local and statewide paid sick time law. For example, if you work in Los Angeles, you may have rights under both Los Angeles’s paid sick time law and California’s statewide paid sick time law.
It is also important to be aware that paid sick time laws generally prohibit retaliation, meaning your employer cannot fire you or discipline you for using sick time you have accrued under the law, whether you use it for yourself or for your child. Illegal retaliation could include giving you a disciplinary “point” or “occurrence” for using earned sick time under an employer’s absence control policy.
For a complete list of paid sick time laws in the U.S. and to check specific provisions of the laws such as who is covered, how “child” is defined, and how much sick time workers can earn, visit A Better Balance’s our website.
If your child has a serious illness, you may have rights under other laws such as the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
At A Better Balance, we are leading the movement to ensure that no worker ever has to choose between their job and their family. If you have any questions about your rights, feel free to call our free and confidential legal hotline at 212-430-5982, or 615-915-2417 if you work in the South. Please note that this post is not, and should not be treated as, legal advice.