On April 20, 2011, the “sick leave bill” that has been passed through the Hawaii state legislature for the past several years has once again made its way to the Governor’s desk for approval (or veto.) This bill, SB 1076, applies to employers who have 100 or more employees, and have a collective bargaining agreement with the employees. If passed, this bill would amend Hawaii state law to make it illegal for such employers to bar or discharge from employment, withhold pay, or demote an employee who uses accrued and available sick leave. The bill also provides that employers may seek written verification, from an employee who uses three or more consecutive days of sick leave, that the employee was actually sick. The bill does not, however, provide any specific recourse for employers when an employee fails to provide such verification.
People who have dealt with this bill in the past (including myself) know that it is targeted at one specific company in Hawaii. Unfortunately, all companies who have 100 or more employees and a CBA with their employees will have to abide by this new law, if passed. As most of you are well aware, sick leave is not even a mandatory benefit; employers provide it to employees at their own free will or via mutual agreement with unions. Therefore, to me, a law that regulates how an employer handles a benefit that is not even mandatory in the first place is non-sensical. It also constitutes an impingement on an employer’s collective bargaining rights. Ironically, one possible response from employers may be to just eliminate sick leave altogether, and instead, adopt a PTO (“paid time off”) policy. That would result in an adverse and unintended effect on employees, because they would lose their sick leave benefits.
In the years past, Governor Lingle vetoed the bill when it reached her desk. It will be interesting to see what Governor Abercrombie does with the bill.
You can read a copy of the bill here.