June 13, 2024

U.S. and Canada Updates

Federal Update

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA)

We wanted to give you a quick reminder regarding the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, the final rule will be in effect as of June 18, 2024. You can read our summary of the key changes in our previous newsletter, or if you’d like some light reading, you can find all 400+ pages of the final rule and interpretive guidance here.

State Updates

California

Employment Development Department (EDD)

The EDD has released its forecast for the 2025 Disability Insurance (DI) Fund. The DI fund provides State Disability Insurance (SDI) and Paid Family Leave (PFL) benefits for California employees. The 2025 employee contribution rate is projected to increase from 1.1% to 1.2%, the maximum weekly benefit is projected to remain at $1,620. As a reminder, the taxable wage ceiling was removed as of January 1, 2024 per SB 951. You can find the detailed forecast here. The final 2025 DI Fund forecast is expected to be published in mid to late October.

Connecticut

Connecticut Paid Leave Authority

Governor Lamont has signed legislation to amend the CT Paid Leave program to allow any of the state’s federally recognized tribes to participate in the program, as well as allow leave benefits for survivors of sexual assault, effective October 1, 2024. Covered leave reasons will now include seeking care or participating in the criminal justice process. While The Larkin Company does not administer safe leaves at this time, we would track leaves that meet eligibility under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and/or state leave law (e.g., if the employee has a serious health condition).

Paid Sick and Safe Leave

While we have previously covered the topic, new legislation has been passed by the Governor to expand Connecticut’s Paid Sick and Safe Leave law to require nearly every private-sector employer to provide paid sick leave to employees (including day or temporary workers) by January 1, 2027. The Act Expanding Paid Sick Days in the State will allow for paid sick leave to all private-sector employers and employees except certain union construction organizations, expand the list of family members leave can be taken for, increase the rate of accrual, and add to the list of qualifying reasons for use. Here are the details:

  • The law will apply to employers with 25 or more employees by January 1, 2025; to employers with 11 or more employees by January 1, 2026; and to employers with at least 1 or more employees by January 1, 2027.
  • Family members now include: spouse, sibling, child, grandparent, grandchild, parent, or an individual related by blood or affinity whose close association is the equivalent to a family relationship. Note that for child, parent, and grandchild, these relationships include foster, adoptive, step-, and in-law relationships.
  • The added leave reasons are: closure of the employer’s place of business or family member’s school or place of care due to a public health emergency, or a determination that the employee or their family member poses a risk of health due to exposure of a communicable illness.
  • Accrual will now be at a rate of 1 hour of paid sick per 30 hours worked (previously 40 hours). Employers who already offer other paid leave under the same or better conditions will be in compliance with this requirement.

Maine

The State of Maine Department of Labor has announced proposed rulemaking for the state’s upcoming Paid Family and Medical Leave Program, allowing public comment through July 8, 2024. If made official, changes will be to the definition of a covered employee, greater detail on intermittent and reduced schedule leaves, and even the application for benefits process. Once the proposed rules are made final, we will summarize the changes in an upcoming newsletter. As a reminder, benefits are not available under the program until May 1, 2026, so this is likely not the last of the changes until then. We’ll keep an eye out and let you know when these proposed rules become final.

Minnesota

Paid Leave Law (MN PLL)

Several updates have occurred in the North Star State since we last covered them. First, the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has officially released guidance on the upcoming Paid Leave program for both employees and employers, in the form of Frequently Asked Questions. Additionally, Governor Walz has signed into law amendments that will make changes to the program to increase payroll taxes annually, as well as providing plans on how benefits will be calculated and the appeals process, among other things. Here are the highlights:

  • Premium rates will be adjusted annually, with the maximum contribution rate for an employee capped at the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) limit. The first premium payments will be due on or before April 30, 2026, only applied to wages earned between January 1, 2026, and March 31, 2026.
  • Employees and employers will have 30 calendar days from the date of a decision on a PFML claim to request a review of the decision, after which a hearing will be held and reconsideration can be requested. Once a decision is made on reconsideration, then the employer or individual filing can appeal the decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Benefits under the program will be calculated based on the average hours the employee has worked during the last two quarters prior to their application for benefits, with the amount based on a percentage of their average weekly wage.
  • Employers will need to post a notice of employee’s rights under the law within the workplace as of November 1, 2025. This notice is currently in development, and we will share it with you once published.
  • Intermittent leave is permitted in the minimum increment provided under employer policy for other forms of leave (e.g., PTO, sick, etc.), even if the increment is less than 1 day. If taking leave intermittently, employees cannot apply for benefits until they have accumulated at least 8 hours of leave. Additionally, a covered employee’s initial paid week will occur only after seven leave days are taken, whether consecutive or not.
  • Lastly, the definition of family member has been expanded to include the child of a domestic partner.

Earned Sick and Safe Time (ESST) Act

There have been a few updates to the ESST since it went into effect on January 1, 2024, thanks to a new bill signed by Governor Walz.

Employees are now defined as any person anticipated by the employer to perform at least 80 hours of work in a year, meaning that those individuals anticipated to work more than 80 hours in a year may use their ESST immediately upon accrual without the need to meet the 80-hour waiting period. Covered employees will now be able to use ESST for the purposes of making arrangements for or attending funeral or memorial services, as well as to address financial and legal matters from a family member’s death. Increments of ESST was previously held to the minimum increment that an employer’s payroll system can track, but now the amendments clarify that increments of less than 15 minutes need not be allowed, and employers cannot require use of more than four hours. If the absence is 3 consecutive scheduled workdays or less, an employer cannot require reasonable documentation for the absence. Further on the topic of documentation, should an employee use ESST for an absence related to domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking and cannot obtain documentation either in a reasonable amount of time or without an added expense, then a written statement from the employee would be a permissible substitute.

The rate of pay has been amended, as well. ESST must be paid at the employee’s “base rate,” which is the rate the employee would have earned if not taking ESST, whether the employee is paid hourly or annually. The amendment clarifies that this does not include any overtime pay, commissions, shift differentials, holiday pay, or bonuses.

Pregnancy Accommodation Law and the Pregnancy and Parental Leave Act (MPPL)

In effect on August 1, 2024, there are two significant changes to both the Pregnancy Accommodation Law, as well as to the MPPL. First, an employee’s 12-week entitlement under the MPPL will not be reduced by any period of paid or unpaid leave taken for prenatal care medical appointments. Second, during any paid or unpaid leave provided under the MPPL, or as a reasonable accommodation under the Pregnancy Accommodation Law, an employer must maintain coverage under any group insurance policy or health care plan the employee and any dependents would have been entitled to as if the employee was not on leave. However, the employee must continue to pay any employee share of the cost of benefits.

New York

Previously mentioned in our newsletter, we wanted to give another reminder that the law in New York regarding paid lactation breaks for nursing mothers goes into effect as of June 19, 2024. The NY Department of Labor has released a Policy on the Rights of Employees to Express Breast Milk in the Workplace, and additionally, if you visit the state website you will be able to find a downloadable guide and other helpful information to ensure you’re prepared.

New York City

A quick reminder for employers with employees in the Big Apple – the Workers’ Bill of Rights mentioned here must be provided to current employees by July 1, 2024 and to new hires thereafter. The required notice of the Bill of Rights that must be posted at the worksite, should be given to all employees as of July 1, 2024 and to new hires on or before their first day of work, as well as made available on any online platform used to communicate with employees, such as a company intranet or app. The notice is a QR code that leads to the Workers’ Bill of Rights webpage on the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection website.

Oregon

As we’re only a couple of weeks away from the changes to the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) and Paid Leave Oregon (PLO) going into effect, we wanted to give you one last heads up so you are ready to go for July 1, 2024. We have hashed out the details in our previous newsletter, if you’d like a refresher on what changes will occur.

South Carolina

Throughout the past year, we have seen several states enact laws that establish family leave insurance as a class of disability income insurance. South Carolina now joins other states like Arkansas, Florida, and Kentucky after the passing of House Bill 4832. Effective immediately, employers now have the option to include PFL reasons (i.e., bonding, family care, and military exigency) in their insured STD policies, negating the need for the state to enact a formal PFL program. As we have asked before, if you decide to move forward with including PFL within your insured STD plan and we provide you with our leave of absence service, please notify your Larkin Client Success Manager so we may inform your South Carolina employees on PFL to apply for STD.

Washington

The Washington Employment Security Department (ESD) has recently adopted a permanent rule to amend the definition of “placement” to clarify the circumstances family leave can be taken to bond with a child. The amendment clarifies that an employee may take up to 12 weeks of family leave either within 12 months from the date the child is physically placed in the employee’s home, or within 12 months from the date of which the adoption is legally finalized. You may read the entire amended section here.

Canada Update

Quebec

The province has recently introduced Bill 68, An Act mainly to reduce the administrative burden of physicians. If passed, the bill would essentially prohibit employers from requiring employees to procure a medical note for absences related to sickness for the first three periods of absence, not exceeding 3 consecutive days annually. Additionally, an employer would not be able to require medical certificates for absences due to an employee providing care for a child, parent, or person the employee acts as a caregiver for. This essentially means that the first 3 absences in the year, or absences of 3 or less consecutive days would not require a medical note. However, if the leave is longer than 3 consecutive business days, a medical note could still be required. Once this bill passes, we will be sure to update you as soon as practicable as it may require updates to your company handbook, should you include Quebec-specific leave benefits information.

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