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Can an employer offer employees the opportunity to “borrow” unearned sick leave time when needed and then “repay” the time incrementally upon the employee’s return to work?

Our agency advises against a "borrowing sick leave" provision. This practice is administratively burdensome and complicated not only for the company but for the Labor Relations Division should we need to investigate a complaint. It is rife with opportunity for errors in calculations of time earned, used, and borrowed. Under Rules promulgated to enforce the provisions of the HWA, if the Division finds that an employer has not maintained accurate and complete records of paid sick leave accrual and usage, the Division may base its calculation of damages owed on other reasonable, credible evidence, including but not limited to the complainant’s estimates. (See 11.1.6.25 NMAC.)

Also, the "paying back" of sick leave could be an improper payroll deduction under New Mexico's Wage Payment Act. The frontloading structure of accrual, which is allowed for under the Act, could address a company's concerns regarding an employee not having accrued enough sick leave at the time the employee needs to use the hours. The Legislature did not address this in the statute but from an agency perspective, a "borrowing" policy brings unnecessary complication, confusion, and exposure to liability.

Can employees waive any of their Healthy Workplaces Act rights through union MOUs?

No. Any attempt to require an employee of any kind to sign a contract or other agreement that would limit or prevent an employee from asserting rights under the HWA is prohibited by the Act. An employer’s attempt to impose such a contract, agreement, or policy shall constitute an adverse action under the Act that is punishable by statutory damages of $250 for each occurrence.

Can employers ever require employees to use their paid sick leave when absent for a permissible purpose?

No. Employers cannot require employees to use HWA leave. PSL may only be used upon the employee’s oral or written request. If the employee does not request use of PSL for a condition that may qualify for use under the Act, that is the employee’s choice, even if it results in no pay for the employee. This includes time that the employee may be off work due to FMLA or under another law such as the Promoting Financial Independence for Victims of Domestic Abuse Act.    

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