Sick Leave

In the United States, most employers aren't required to provide workers with paid sick leave. Employers for about half of all American workers do provide some form of sick leave.

Traditionally, employers give employees separate leave for illnesses and injuries. Some employers allow employees to use sick leave to care for their sick children while others don't. Some employers lump together vacation, personal days, and sick leave into paid time off. An employee has a certain amount of leave time to use for any reason.

In addition to sick leave, some employers offer disability leave to employees who miss weeks or months for medical reasons. Although sick leave isn't mandated nationally, the city of San Francisco requires all employers within its boundaries to provide paid sick leave. Several state legislatures and Congress also are considering similar measures

Exempt employees and sick leave

Generally, an employer may not make deductions from an exempt employee's pay based on absences. There are a few exceptions to that rule, including an exception that permits a deduction if (1) an employee misses a full day of work because of sickness or injury, (2) the employer has in place a "bona fide sick pay plan," and (3) the employee wouldn't be entitled to paid leave for the absence either because he didn't yet qualify for the leave or because he has used all his leave.

Sick leave and federal and state leave laws

Employers may be required to grant certain types of leave. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act and many similar state laws provide for leave due to an employee's or her family member's serious health condition. The Americans with Disabilities Act and similar state laws may require leave as a reasonable accommodation of a disability.

You also should check out your state's workers' comp laws to determine what sort of employee leave is required. Many employers offer separate paid leave for employees who miss work to give birth or adopt a child.

Other sick leave issues

The U.S. Department of Labor's regulations require every employer to provide employees with a written or posted description of employment practices and policies for paid vacations, holidays, sick leave, bonuses, severance pay, personal days, payment of employee expenses, pensions, and all other fringe benefits.

Employers must be careful to follow federal Fair Labor Standard Act requirements regarding deducting employees' pay when they are on sick leave. Some states also have requirements about whether employers must pay out sick leave when a worker leaves employment and how that should be done.