Law Requirements for Employee Time-Off

There may be a mandate for employers to offer certain benefits in terms of time-off to the employees. This includes time off for voting, jury duty, medical leave, pregnancy leave, and military leave.

While several benefits are provided at the discretion of the employer, others are mandated by federal and/or state law. The aforementioned ones are mandated.

Time Off to Vote

An employer must allow all the employees to actively participate in the community that they are a part of. To ensure this, they must vote in local, state, and federal elections. Although federal laws do not mandate providing time off to employees to vote, most jurisdictions include laws mandating private employers to allow employees to take time off to vote. Moreover, most of these states also require employers to pay the employee during their absence. The majority of states also have laws that ensure employee’s protection from the influence, interference, or intimidation of the employer with respect to their political preferences as well as their right to vote.

Go through our state map that looks at the time-off requirements for voting under your state's laws.

Jury Duty Leave

Regardless of the size of the employer, they are required to provide every employee with leave for jury duty, according to both federal and state laws.

Federal law. Employees can take leaves of absence in order to act as jurors in federal courts. This is outlined in the Jury Systems Improvement Act, which is a federal law. The law states that one can sue an employer if they either discharge or intimidate an employee in relation to their jury service. Remember that this is merely applicable in relation to an employee’s service as a juror in federal court.

State law. There are state laws in place to protect employees for their service on state and local juries. Note that the laws do not resemble each other. The majority of states do not permit an employer to discharge an employee who goes for jury duty and takes leave for that. Alternatively, a few others prohibit other types of reprisal or even threats of reprisal. In a few states, employers are not mandated to pay an employee for the time they spend on jury duty, or the employer could remove from their wages the money that the employee receives for juror service.

Witness and court attendance leaves. Do not that jury duty should not be confused with a witness or court attendance leave. In several states, you can determine your own policy.

But in the following states, employers must know the laws that mandate them to allow employees to take time off for serving as a witness and/or attending or getting ready for court proceedings, and even discrimination against employees who opt for these leaves may be prohibited:

  • California

  • Colorado

  • Connecticut

  • District of Columbia

  • Florida

  • Illinois

  • Indiana

  • Iowa

  • Maryland

  • Massachusetts

  • Michigan

  • Minnesota

  • Nevada

  • New Hampshire

  • New Jersey

  • New Mexico

  • New York

  • Ohio

  • Oregon

  • Pennsylvania

  • Puerto Rico

  • Rhode Island

  • Vermont

  • Virginia

  • Washington

Formulating a jury duty policy. An employer might want to formulate a policy clarifying the various procedures for employees who require leave for serving on a jury.

When you are formulating your jury leave policy, remember that it must answer the following questions:

  • Will the employee be paid for the leave?

  • How will the pay be computed?

  • What about the pay that they receive from the court?

  • During serving, will it be considered paid vacation or holiday pay?

  • What type of proof is required to be presented by the employees to seek leave?

  • Will I include a time limit when it comes to the amount of paid jury leave that will be granted?

  • What must the employee do in case of early release or some postponement?

  • To document jury leave pay, what recordkeeping system must be employed?

  • Will any employees be considered ineligible for paid leave?

Needless to say, jury duty is serious. In case your employees seek leave for that purpose, you must look at state law. In the same manner, go through your policy and adhere to it as any violations could result in problems.

Family and Medical Leave

Remember that, according to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employers may have to permit employees to take some amount of time off for dealing with family illnesses, births, adoptions, and medical emergencies.

The FMLA mandates family leave for employers employing 50 or more people. Under the law, covered employers should permit their employees to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave every year because of a child’s birth or adoption, or for dealing with some serious health condition that an immediate family member is dealing with, or even the health condition of the employee.

Under the FMLA, what is considered to be a serious condition? It is nothing but an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition requiring inpatient care in a hospital or similar healthcare facilities, which is inclusive or incapacity of any period or any treatment that is required at a later point in relation to the inpatient care or even if the care provided by a health care provider must be continuous in nature, which is among the following:

  • Incapacity that exceeds a period of three successive days.

  • Incapacity period because of pregnancy or in relation to prenatal care.

  • Incapacity or treatment period because of a chronic serious health condition.

  • Long-term or permanent incapacity because of a condition that cannot be alleviated with treatment.

  • Absence for receiving several treatments by a health care provider, which involves conditions that may cause incapacitation if left untreated.

Under the FMLA, employers must reinstate the employee in the same role or an equivalent role following 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Furthermore, the leave need not be taken at a stretch. In some cases, this type of leave can be taken even for a day.

Military Family Leave

Under the FMLA, employers employing 50 or more people should permit leave of up to 26 weeks for family members of military personnel who have been injured to take care of service members who sustained injuries in combat. Under qualifying exigencies, there may also be a need for employers to permit a leave of 12 weeks for the spouse, son, daughter, or parent of a service member who is either engaged in active duty or was informed of either a pending call or was ordered to go back to active duty. In order to be eligible for military family leave because of qualifying exigencies associated with deployment, the service member has to be deployed to a foreign country. The qualifying exigencies are:

  • deployment short-notice

  • events and activities related to military

  • activities associated with childcare and school

  • arrangements for financial and legal requirements

  • counseling

  • rest and recovery

  • activities after deployment

  • other activities that are agreed upon by the employer and employee

Wherever possible, military family leave entitlements and procedures tend to be incorporated into non-military family leave provisions.

State Family Leave Laws

Although because your business is of small size, you might not need to adhere to federal family leave laws, a few states also have family leave laws where the requirements are mandated even for employers who have less than 50 employees.

In certain states, specific benefits are needed for situations involving maternity, adoption, or parental leave. You must check for other differences between state and federal laws.

Pregnancy/Maternity Leave Benefits

In case you employ 15 or more people, you will be subject to a federal anti-discrimination law protecting pregnant women. The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which forms a part of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ensures that women dealing with pregnancy, childbirth, and associated medical conditions are treated like every other applicants and employee, based on their capabilities and inabilities. Under this law, women remain protected against getting fired or not being hired or denied promotion merely because of pregnancy. Additionally, a woman cannot be coerced into taking a leave if she can work.

Pregnant women must be treated in a manner similar to that experienced by people with temporary disabilities when it comes to leave and participation in benefit plans and health and disability insurance. Moreover, since other employees opting for disability leave can get their jobs back when they are completely able, this is applicable to pregnant women too.

However, remember to discuss with your state labor agency or your attorney regarding the pregnancy laws applicable in your state, and ensure that you ask questions related to these aspects of compliance:

  • What can the maximum duration of the leave be

  • If the leave has to be paid leave

  • What are the posting requirements that you are subject to

  • In case the law includes "less strenuous work options" provisions

  • The way in which pregnancy must be treated as a disability under state law

  • The law’s prohibitions pertaining to discrimination against pregnant employees

  • The notification requirements that employees might have to adhere to

  • the requirements under the law pertaining to reinstating pregnant employees

Have any questions about time-off benefits? Contact us at (212) 365-4553 or to learn more.

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