On Monday, May 8, 2017, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed into law the Family Care Act (the “Act”), a bill that allows workers to use their own sick leave to care for immediate family members. The first bill of its kind to be passed into law, the Act applies to employers with 25 or more employees who elect to provide employees with time away from work due to incapacity, illness, or injury (sick leave), for which the employee receives his or her regular salary, wages, or other remuneration. The Act does not require employers to provide sick leave. It does, however, require those who provide sick leave to allow employees to use up to five days of earned sick leave for the care of an immediate family member. This permits employees to use personal days to do things such as care for an ill child or transport a sick parent to the doctor. According to the Act, immediate family includes the employee’s child, spouse, grandchild, grandparent, parent, or any dependent as shown in the employee’s most recent tax return.
The Act does not apply to paid short-term or long-term disability. Moreover, it does not apply to any employer who offers employee stock ownership plans. The law does not create any new cause of action against an employer.
Many employers have already combined sick leave and vacation time into a general bucket of personal leave, thereby permitting employees to utilize sick leave for any purpose, including care for immediate family. Presumably, this Act will not affect employers utilizing that policy. The Act is, however, expected to affect some 800,000 Georgia employees.
This client alert is intended to inform clients and other interested parties about legal matters of current interest and is not intended as legal advice. If you have any questions regarding these issues, please contact your Labor and Employment Counsel at Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP.