Connecticut's General Assembly recently passed a new paid sick leave act, requiring most employers to give their employees paid sick days after certain requirements are met. Unfortunately, as with a lot of legislation, the effect of this new law on Connecticut's seasonal employers is anything but clear. If you want the thrill of reading the new legislation in all its scintillating glory, you can find it here.
There are a couple of facets of the new law that should make seasonal employers feel a little better. First, it specifically exempts, "day or temporary workers" defined generally as "an individual who performs work for another on (A) a per diem basis, or (B) an occasional or irregular basis for only the time required to complete such work." Does this mean that a seasonal employee in Connecticut is a "temporary worker?" Maybe, but its certainly not clear. One could reasonably argue it does since seasonal employees work on an "irregular basis," if one considers working only a few months out of the year "irregular." However, while employed, most seasonal employees work regular (and long) hours and the fact that they work for the summer is probably not what the General Assembly had in mind when it provided this exemption. More likely, the legislature was thinking of day laborers and temps, not seasonal employees. Plus, this legislation is intended to provide more protection for the workforce, so if its reach is questionable I could see the state erring on the side of including more workers rather than less.
So that brings us to the more realistic barrier for seasonal employees. The Act states that employees do not start accruing paid sick days until they have worked 1) a total of 680 hours and 2) an average of 10 hours per week in the preceding calendar quarter. This is where the rubber meets the road for Connecticut's seasonal employers, I think. Considering that, at the earliest, the vast majority of seasonal workers don't start work until the end of the first quarter (March) or the beginning of the second (April), and won't start working long hours until the end of the second quarter (June), it is unlikely that any seasonal employee will reach these thresholds until the third-quarter at the earliest. Those hired after the start of the season, might not hit it at all, and certainly won't until the end of the third quarter (September) at the earliest.
But...even with these hurdles, it appears possible, if not likely, that a number of seasonal employees could be entitled to paid sick time starting with the 681st hour of employment. The effect of this could be trouble for seasonal operations. The new law allows an employer to require documentation for sick leave of "three or more consecutive days." This means that an employee with sick time to burn by the end of the season could take the weekend off, without having to produce documentation backing up an illness. While, of course, most don't take sick time unless they are truly sick (I'm really trying to give the benefit of the doubt here), some will see this as paid vacation - particularly as the season comes to an end and they have to "use it or lose it."
Now, all of this may be wrong - we haven't gotten any guidance from the State on how it intends to apply this new law.. And, none of this goes into effect until next year, so there's still time to get the details sorted out. But, as it stands, there might be fewer employees and longer lines for your favorite rides in Connecticut come fall of 2012.
- Erik H. Beard, Esq.
- I am an attorney practicing in Hartford, Connecticut. A particular focus of mine is the legal needs of the amusement and tourism industry. My focus on the amusement industry derives from my pre-law career as an operations manager with Cedar Fair Entertainment Company and Universal Orlando. Having started my career as a ride operator at Cedar Point in 1992, I progressed through the seasonal ranks and ultimately became the Manager of Ride Operations and Park Services at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City. I also worked in Universal's operations department during the construction and development of Islands of Adventure. Today, I am an active member of the New England Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions and the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions. I have been invited to speak at amusement industry meetings and seminars and have worked on a variety of matters relating to this industry.
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