Arizona’s new sick leave policy has brought sweeping changes to the state’s paid sick leave, granting paid sick leave for almost every worker in the state.
Employees can use this time off when they are ill, need to get to a doctor appointment or need domestic abuse counseling or legal services. That said, some employees are likely left wondering whether paid sick leave can be used for vacation time as well.
That will depend in large part on the company’s existing or updated paid time off and sick time policies.
Arizona Employer Policies for Paid Sick Leave
Arizona’s new law allows employers to satisfy the legal requirements of paid sick leave with another paid leave policy. In other words, paid sick leave could be implemented within a combined time off policy that includes paid sick leave with other forms of time off like vacation time. The new requirement could even be satisfied with a standalone vacation policy.
That said, Arizona employers are unlikely to do so based on the requirements of the new law. Using standalone or combined leave policies to satisfy the new legal requirements would require the policy to grant at least as much paid leave as required by the new sick leave law (either 24 or 40 hours depending on the employer’s size). Second, the policy must also grant paid leave for the same purposes as the new paid sick time law.
These stipulations are explicitly spelled out by A.R.S. §23-372(E). The consequences of this are that employers are likely to create a separate paid sick leave policy for two reasons.
First, paid sick time must be made available to all employees, as already mentioned. The consequences of this are significant when using a general paid time off policy or a vacation policy to meet the new paid sick leave standard since paid vacation or paid time off must be given to all employees, even if the employees are seasonal/part-time.
Making matters worse is the fact that employees can roll over unlimited amounts of unused sick leave from the previous year. If sick leave is provided under a vacation policy, it would require that there are also no caps on rolling over unused vacation.
Given these financial burdens, expect employers to separate sick time from other forms of paid time off. With a proper separation in place and a clear policy, employees will not be able to use sick leave for vacation.
Expect employers to add language to paid sick leave policies that expressly forbid using paid sick leave for any purpose except for what is allowed by Arizona law. Employees will likely be tempted to use sick time for vacation days, which is why employers may try to crack down on potential abuse of the new law.
Still, actually proving that an employee was not sick is difficult. The new law states that employers cannot require documentation regarding an employee’s paid sick leave absence unless the employee has been absent for three or more days consecutive days.
Employers can, however, update policies that require employees to state their use of paid sick time is legally permitted by the new law. If employers discover that an employee lied while signing such a document, the employer could use this as a reason for discipline or termination to prevent abuse.
Contact Tyler Allen Law Firm, PLLC for a legal consultation to discuss how the new law could affect your paid sick leave and vacation time.