New sick leave bill will amend ERISA requirements

Getting sick is one of the great fears of workers in Tennessee. Missing work means losing pay for many whose employers do not offer paid sick days. Because of this, employees may show up for work with fevers, coughs or stomach flus that they pass along to their colleagues. Many employers would like to offer paid sick leave, but if their companies cross state lines, the employers may be stymied by the lack of uniformity in state leave laws. Lawmakers are considering a plan to fix this, and it involves amending the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, otherwise known as the ERISA laws.

A controversial bill is currently before Congress. It seeks to address the confusing patchwork of state laws regarding paid leave. The bill grants employers the option of offering workers federal paid leave along with a flexible work schedule. Depending on the number of years an employee has been on the job and the number of employees a business has, the worker may be eligible for up to 20 paid sick days each year. Choosing the federal sick leave plan exempts the employer from any state laws regarding paid leave.

The bill is being proposed as an amendment to ERISA, which requires employers to reach minimum standards for the benefits they offer employees. In its present form, ERISA prevents local and state governments from adding more requirements to plans for employee benefits. By amending the law, Congress will provide employers with an option for choosing the federal paid sick leave and flexible work schedules over their state's requirements.

While this bill is still in its early stages, some Tennessee employers may hope for its passage so they can provide these benefits for workers. However, the bill is not without its opponents, so it remains to be seen what the outcome will be. Meanwhile, employees who struggle to obtain the benefits already protected by ERISA may find the assistance of an experienced attorney beneficial.

Source:, "Federal Paid Leave Proposal Introduced In Congress", Samuel Lillard, Nov. 3, 2017

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