Are Louisiana Employers Required to Offer Sick Leave?

Employers often ask whether they are required to offer a certain number of sick days every year.  Under Louisiana law, the answer is no — there is no Louisiana sick leave law that requires employers to offer leave for run-of-the-mill illnesses such as a cold or sore throat.  Companies are therefore free to set their own sick leave policies, and may offer as much (or as little) sick leave as they wish.  The sick leave may be paid, unpaid, or a mix of both.

Nonetheless, employers should be aware of their obligations under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (or “FMLA”).  The rules for FMLA eligibility are somewhat complex.  Essentially, it applies only to employees who have worked at a company for at least twelve months, who have at least 1,250 hours of service within the prior twelve months.  It also only applies if the company employs at least 50 other employees within a 75 mile radius of the employee’s website.  All three of these conditions must be met before an employee is FMLA-eligible.  (The rule for government employees is different).

An employee may seek FMLA leave if the employee, or a close family member, is either having a new baby or suffering from a “serious health condition.”  This is not a true sick leave statute, as minor ailments such as a cold or a stomach flu usually do not qualify as serious health conditions under the law. The employee may take up to 12 weeks’ of leave within a 12 month period.   The leave can be unpaid, although some companies offer paid FMLA leave.  The leave can also be “intermittent,” which means that the employee does not need to take the leave all at once.  Perhaps most importantly, an employer cannot retaliate in any way against an employee who takes medical leave, and must restore that employee to the same job, or an equivalent job, upon returning from leave.

The FMLA is a very complicated statute, and often confuses both employees who want to know their rights and employers who want to comply with the law.  If you have any questions about Louisiana sick leave law, FMLA eligibility, or FMLA compliance, please call me at (504) 267-0777 or e-mail today.