by Armando Rodriguez, Esq - Product Compliance Counsel Compliance And Legal Department
January 03, 2022
In December, social media was flooded with users sharing their 2021 Wrapped, exposing their eclectic tastes in music with the world. Apparently, I listen to movie soundtracks WAY more than I realized, but that’s not important right now. Immediately after, people on the internet started imagining what other apps’ “wrapped” offerings would look like. “In 2021, you attended 47 zoom meetings where you DID NOT unmute or turn on your camera once.” “Your top 5 cuisines in 2021 were Fast Food, Thai, Chinese, Italian, and Tacos.”
So sticking to our area of expertise in leave management, here is our 2021 Wrapped . There were 23 changes of note with regard to leaves of absence – paid and unpaid – or accommodations across 14 states and territories. For example, 2021 saw one Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program go live, two states establish commissions to explore developing a PFML program, and one state delay the implementation of their PFML. Let’s do a quick review of these changes. We blogged about many of them during the year and provide links to those prior articles.
- California Family Rights Act (CFRA) coverage was expanded by reducing the size of covered employers from 50 to 5, added qualifying exigencies related to covered active duty as a covered reason, and adding grandparent, grandchild, and sibling to covered relationships. Effective January 1, 2021. Read more about this update here.
- Then California added parent-in-law as a CFRA covered relationship, effective January 1, 2022.
- Connecticut PFML began collecting employee contributions in 2021 and will begin providing benefits on January 1, 2022. We’ve blogged about this many times and you can get a good overview here.
- The state also made changes to the Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Act to align it (nearly) with the new PFML, effective January 1, 2022. We recently blogged about this here.
District of Columbia
- Washington D.C. had a busy year for such a small territory! Remember, many of their employment-related laws apply only to the employees of private employers, not to federal or District employees.For starters, DC amended their Universal Paid Leave (a PFML program) to prohibit the reduction of fully insured short-term disability benefits based on actual or estimated paid leave benefits. Effective May 26, 2021. More about this here.
- The District also expanded DC Universal Paid Leave by adding 2 weeks of prenatal leave and expanding medical leave from 2 weeks to 6 weeks. The entire leave bank is still capped at 10 weeks, but more changes may be coming.Effective October 1, 2021. Read more about this here.
- Additionally, D.C. amended the Coronavirus Support Temporary Amendment Act of 2021 to remove the public health emergency as the trigger for provisions of the act. Effective October 27, 2021.
- Finally, D.C. amended the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2008 to provide paid time off for COVID vaccinations and recovery and amended the District of Columbia Family and Medical Leave Act of 1990 to extend and update existing unpaid leave available for COVID-related purposes. Effective November 18, 2021.
- Illinois expanded its Victims' Economic Security and Safety Act. The update added “crime of violence” as an additional leave reason, expanded the definition of “sexual violence” to include sexual assault, and expanded the definition of “family or household member” by adding parties to a civil union, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, any other person related by a civil union, and any other individual whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship as determined by the employee. Effective January 1, 2022. Here's our blog post about this update.
- Indiana was the latest state to pass a pregnancy accommodation law, although there’s not much meat on the bone. Indiana’s version allows employees to request a pregnancy accommodation, requires the employer to respond within a reasonable time, and is meant to be an extension of existing state and federal protections. But, it does not require an employer to grant accommodation or impose a duty on employer to accommodate unless required to do so under existing state or federal law. Effective July 1, 2021.
- Kentucky expanded an existing law that required employers to provide adoptive parents at least 6 weeks of unpaid bonding leave.The new law requires at lest 6 weeks of leave or the same leave provided to birth parents, if greater.The law also changes the applicable age of the adopted child from under 7 to under 10. Effective June 28, 2021. You can read more about this update here.
- Louisiana created a task force to explore establishing a PFML program. Effective June 7, 2021.
- Maine added grandchild, or grandchild of a domestic partner, as a covered family relationship to the state’s job-protected (but unpaid) family and medical leave law. Effective June 29, 2021. More on this update here.
- Maine also created a commission to develop a PFML program. Effective October 18, 2021.We’re watching this one closely and attending the commission’s periodic public meetings.
- Massachusetts began providing PFML benefits on January 1, 2021. Like Connecticut, we’ve posted many articles about Massachusetts PFML and if you need a refresher, you can get started here.
- Missouri created a requirement for employers to provide up to 2 weeks of unpaid leave, depending or employer size, to employees who are victims or whose family member is a victim of domestic violence, as well as to provide reasonable safety accommodations. The law went into effect August 28, 2021. More on this here.
- On July 6, 2021, New Hampshire established the Granite State Paid Family Leave Plan, effective January 1, 2023, and what a strange new model it is! More on this here, but be aware that a bill is pending to repeal this law. You can bet we’ll keep you posted.
- Giving employers lots of lead time to be ready, on November 1, 2021, New York added sibling as a covered relationship for New York Paid Family Leave, effective January 1, 2023.
- Oregon has delayed implementation of their PFML program.Contributions will now start January 1, 2023, and benefit payments will start September 1, 2023.
- Oregon now exempts certain types of voluntary uniformed service from a five-year limit on eligibility for reemployment rights in private and public sectors. Effective September 25, 2021.
- Finally, Oregon has expanded the Oregon Family Leave Act by expanding eligibility during a public health emergency, as well as adding care of a child in the event of school closure during a public health emergency as a leave reason under the “sick child” provisions of OFLA. Effective January 1, 2022.
- Pennsylvania passed a law effective June 26, 2021, requiring employers to provide unpaid leave for covered employees for preparation of and recovery from an employee’s organ or tissue donation. But the catch is, “covered employees” are only those who are eligible for federal FMLA leave (which in almost all cases would provide leave for this situation anyway as an employee’s serious health condition). Additionally, the law doesn’t provided any additional time beyond what the employee has available under the FMLA.Effective June 26, 2021.
- Rhode Island has increased the duration of its paid family leave – which they call Temporary Caregiver Insurance – from 4 to 5 weeks on January 1, 2022, and to 6 weeks on January 1, 2023, subject to a maximum of 30 weeks leave and benefits combined under RI’s Temporary Disability Insurance and Temporary Caregiver Insurance. More about this here.
- Washington state clarified the continuity of employees’ existing pre-2019 family and medical leave rights.Since Washington’s PFML replaced Washington’s unpaid Family Leave Act, the Washington legislature decided to clarify that the new PFML in no way undermines any rights or obligations under their legacy unpaid but job protected family and medical leave as to conduct, acts, or omissions occurring on or before December 31, 2019. Effective April 16, 2021. This update can be found at RCW 50A.05.125.
- Washington state expanded PFML coverage by providing alternate eligibility tests for employees ineligible due to the pandemic. An employee filing for Washington PFML between January 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022, who does not meet the hours worked requirement due to reduced hours caused by the Pandemic can be eligible if they meet the 820 hours worked requirement under the new qualifying periods of the all 4 quarters of 2019; or the 2nd through 4th quarters of 2019 and 1st quarter of 2020. Effective April 21, 2021. More about this here.
- Washington expanded coverage of its PFML program by adding to the definition of family member “any individual who regularly resides in the employee's home or where the relationship creates an expectation that the employee care for the person, and that individual depends on the employee for care”. Effective July 25, 2021. More about this here.
Matrix can Help! Tracking leaves and PFML programs in this constantly changing environment can be challenging for employers. Matrix tracks state and federal legislative updates and reports on them on this blog. You can find an overview of state paid programs here. But tracking and reporting is just the beginning of what we do! In addition to leave management, short term disability, and management of accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Matrix offers PFML management in all states that allow private plans, and Reliance Standard offers fully insured plans where applicable. Contact your Matrix or Reliance Standard account manager or practice leader for more information, or send us a message at [email protected].