State and Local Law Update

One of the most difficult things for human resource and absence management professionals to do is to keep up with changing State and local laws. Below is a brief summary of some new laws of interest:

Colorado: The Colorado Civil Rights Division has released a new poster required under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. This new law went into effect August 10, 2016 and makes it an unfair employment practice for an employer to fail to provide reasonable accommodations to an applicant or employee who is pregnant or who is physically recovering from childbirth or a related condition.

Illinois: The Child Bereavement Leave Act took effect July 29, 2016; this new law applies to all employers with 50 or more employees. This leave is only available to employees who fall under the definition of an eligible employee under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Employers must provide employees who suffer the loss of a child with up to two weeks of unpaid leave.

Bereavement leave must be completed within 60 days after the date on which the employee receives notice of the death of the child. An employee must provide the employer with at least 48 hours of advance notice of the intent to take leave, unless providing such notice is not reasonable and practical. An employer can require reasonable documentation of the child’s death.

Documentation can include a death certificate, a published obituary or written verification of death, burial or memorial services from a mortuary, funeral home, burial society, crematorium, religious institution or government agency. In the event of the death of more than one child in a 12-month period, an employee is entitled to up to a total of six weeks of bereavement leave during the 12-month period. Employers may not retaliate against employees for taking child bereavement leave.

This new law defines a child as the employee’s son or daughter who is a biological, adopted, foster or step child, legal ward or a child of a person standing in loco parentis. There is no limit on the age of the child. Employees can substitute bereavement leave for other leave, but the new law does not create a right for an employee to take unpaid leave that exceeds the unpaid leave permitted by the FMLA. That means that an employee who has already exhausted FMLA leave cannot receive bereavement leave. Bereavement leave will not count as FMLA leave.

The Illinois Employee Sick Leave Act will be effective on January 1, 2017. This new law provides that employees can use up to half of the personal sick leave benefits provided by an employer for absences due to illness, injury or medical appointment of the employee’s child, spouse, sibling, parent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandchild, grandparent or stepparent for reasonable periods of time as the employee’s attendance is necessary, on the same terms and conditions upon which the employee is able to use sick leave benefits for the employee’s own illness or injury.

An employer that has a paid time off policy that would otherwise provide benefits as required by this new law is not required to modify its policy. Employers cannot retaliate against employees for using or attempting to use leave under this new law, filing a complaint, alleging a violation or cooperating in an investigation.

Illinois has also amended the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act. Effective January 1, 2017, employees with no more than 14 employees will be entitled to four workweeks of unpaid leave in any 12-month period to address issues related to domestic or sexual violence. The existing law provides employees of employers with 15 to 49 employees with 8 workweeks of unpaid leave in any 12-month period and 12 workweeks for employees of employers with 50 or more employees.

New York City: The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs has amended its rules regarding pretax commuter benefits to clarify recordkeeping requirements, enforcement provisions and penalties. The amendment allows employers 90 days to correct a violation without a penalty. After that, a penalty of $250 can be assessed for each 30-day period of noncompliance. Employers must maintain records for two years.

About John Garner

John Garner has over thirty five years of experience in employee benefits. He specializes in compliance, health care reform, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). He helps clients with life, health, and disability benefits, cost containment, flexible benefits, and claim consulting.

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