A summary of the laws and frequently asked questions about paid sick time
In 2017, Arizona passed a new law regarding paid time off for sick employees working for businesses and non-profit organizations. Workers now have some comfort, even if there isn’t a written contract, knowing that they can take some paid time off for a cold, the flu, allergies, or any type of medical disorder.
In addition to sick leave, employees are entitled to paid time for matters related to sexual abuse, domestic violence, emergency school closings and other reasons. Employers can’t ask for documentation of the reason for the time off unless the worker has been absent for at least three days.
Yet there are still some employees in Arizona who are being denied their rightful time off, and who have suffered from retaliatory acts by their employers. At Plattner Verderame, P.C., we value hard work in all its forms. If you have been denied your rightful time away, please contact our Phoenix office to see if we can help.
Common questions about Arizona’s sick time laws
You can find the new laws in A.R.S. §23-371-4, if you wish to read them in full. We also know that reading legal code can be a challenge. Here, we have collected a few of the more common questions we address when it comes to paid personal time off in Arizona.
If I work part-time, can I get sick-time in Arizona?
The laws apply to part-time workers as well as full-time workers. It applies to seasonal workers. It applies to temporary staff. The laws apply to anyone who worked or was hired on or after July 1, 2017. However, if a worker was hired on or after July 1, 2017, the employer can require that the employee wait 90 days until he/she asks for paid sick time.
Please note: these laws only apply to employees. Independent contractors are not entitled to paid sick time, under the law.
Which employers must follow the new paid sick time laws?
Generally, all private employers. This includes employers that are headquartered outside of Arizona but have an employee or worker in Arizona. The law does not apply to state and federal workers. Employers include “any corporation, proprietorship, partnership, joint venture, limited liability company, trust, association, political subdivision of the state, individual or other entity acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee.”
Accruing sick time in Arizona
Workers, regardless of the size of the employer, earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours that they work. Eligible workers are entitled to at least 24 hours of paid sick time if the employer has 14 or fewer workers. The amount increases to 40 hours of paid sick time for employers with 15 or more workers. Employers can voluntarily increase the amount of available sick time.
- Can an employer deny sick time? Employers generally cannot deny sick time that has been accrued.
- Does your employer have to pay out unused sick time? Generally, no, unless you have a written contract. Make sure to find out your employer’s exact policy, to see whether or not the time can be rolled over, or if you have to “use it or lose it.”
- Can you use your sick time pay for vacation? Generally, vacation and paid sick time are handled separately. So, no, you can’t use the sick time for vacation time.
Retaliation, wrongful termination, and other illegal acts
AZ Rev Stat § 23-374 provides that employers cannot retaliate or discriminate against employees who assert their rights to paid sick time. Employers cannot use your absence from work for sickness to discipline, suspend, demote, or discharge you.
To protect workers and make them feel more comfortable that their health won’t jeopardize their job – the new laws allow workers to file retaliation claims. Employees may:
- File a complaint with the courts or the Industrial Commission of Arizona
- Have their complaint investigated
- Inform other workers of their paid sick time rights
In retaliation cases, employees can claim the same items that anyone who was denied paid sick time can claim. Additionally, they can claim any damage directly due to the retaliation such as pay and benefits that were denied.
How do you know if you've been a victim of retaliation?
The enforcement section of the labor laws provides that “Taking adverse action against a person within ninety days of a person's engaging in the foregoing activities shall raise a presumption that such action was retaliation.”
Indicators that you an employer is retaliating include:
- Horrible work assignments
- Denial of promotions
- Not being allowed to take courses to improve your work skills
- Separating you from other workers
Your rights in wrongful termination claims
The most severe type of retaliation is when the employer wrongfully terminates your employment. These claims can be tricky, though, because Arizona is an at-will state, which means that you can be fired at any time, for just about any reason, provided the cause of termination was lawful. In fact, you boss doesn’t even have to tell you WHY he or she fired you.
However, if you were asserting your rights to paid sick time, or were fired immediately upon returning to work, you may have a wrongful termination claim. You should speak with one of our Phoenix attorneys immediately, to see if you have grounds to seek damages.
What are the consequences for employers who don’t follow the paid sick time laws?
It is against the law to terminate, demote, or otherwise retaliate against an employee who, under the law, is entitled to sick time pay. The law includes penalties for employers who engage in these acts. Employers can be required to pay the following:
- Any lost wages
- Any lost benefits
- Statutory fines (This can include twice the underpaid wages or earned paid sick time.)
- Interest for your late payments on bills or other debts
- 100% of your lawyer’s legal fees
There are additional considerations that workers should review with your attorney. Overtime may affect your rights to additional accrued hours. Employees who are discharged and then later rehired (as many seasonal workers are) may be able to claim reinstatement of any accrued sick time.
Can I sue if the company doesn’t give me sick time?
Not necessarily. Remember – the law only applies to employees, and employers can make you wait 90 days before they give you any sick time. If you are denied sick time pay, you must first file a complaint with the Industrial Commission of Arizona within 1 year from the date the violation occurred.
If, however, you use your sick time and you are fired, demoted, or otherwise retaliated against for using the time, then you can sue your employer.
Speak with an experienced paid sick time lawyer now
If you work in Arizona and denied your right to take sick or necessary time off – with pay – you may be entitled to hold the employer responsible. You may be able to claim penalties and legal fees in addition to your lost pay and benefits. At Plattner Verderame, P.C. our experienced lawyers are already filing complaints against employers for breaching their legal duty to provide sick time pay. To understand your rights, please call us today at 602-266-2002 or complete our contact form, and schedule your consultation at our Phoenix office.
Nick is a member of the State Bar of Arizona, the Arizona Association for Justice (formerly the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association) and the American Association for Justice (AAJ). He currently serves on the AAJ’s Political Action Task Force and its Oversight Committee, and on the Board of Governors for Revitalization in Arizona.
Read more about Nick Verderame