Is PTO Enough When Paid Sick Leave Is Required?

January 19, 2016

Look around your office. Is anyone out sick today? (Alternatively, is someone who is in the office clearly too sick to be there?) According to Bloomberg BNA, sick leave will be a big issue for HR departments across the country in 2016.

The Potential Problem with Sick Leave Law


Well, because cities and states across the country are changing laws and regulations around this topic that could end up making it harder on businesses.

Let’s look at why.

In today’s business world, a popular method to handling leave is to offer paid time off (PTO) in lieu of branches of various leaves. You know what I mean, right? Instead of offering 10 vacation days and 10 sick days, you simply offer 20 PTO days and employees can do what they want with them.

That sounds alright. I mean, there is an argument around this that some employees will come in sick even though they are less than productive and are spreading germs to everyone around them just to be able to use those 20 days for their big European vacation over the summer. However, for the most part, this system seems pretty okay.

Yet, apparently there is at least one additional problem. Sick leave laws.

The Growing Trend of Sick Leave

Cities and states all over the US are adding laws that mandate employers to offer sick leave. However, for those businesses that already offer a single set of PTO days, does that qualify?

Well, that is the question.

Let’s look at California. In California, a sick leave requirement started in 2015. Under this law, any employee working in the state is eligible to start accruing sick leave after they have worked for you for at least 30 days. After 90 days of employment, they are eligible to start using their sick leave.

There are a lot more details to the law, including:

  • Businesses must allow sick leave to be carried over to the next year. However, they can cap this accrual at 48 hours (or six days).
  • Businesses may require the accrued time to be used in at least two hour lumps; however, they cannot require more than that (e.g., they could not require a four hour lump).
  • Employers can limit an employee’s use of paid sick leave at 24 hours (or three days) a year.
  • One hour of sick leave is accrued for every 30 hours an employee works.

Ok. Now that we have the basics of California’s law, let’s look at the potential PTO problem associated with it.

Let’s assume that you, as an employer, take the steps to make sure your PTO policy is in compliance with California’s new paid sick leave law. An employee uses all their PTO days and then promptly gets sick. You don’t need to give them anymore paid days because the days they already got off counted as the paid sick days you were legally required to give them. That’s great!

Now, though, let’s say that you didn’t take the steps to make sure your PTO complied with the new sick leave law. As it turns out, it actually doesn’t. An employee once again uses all their PTO days and once again, they promptly get sick. This time, one of two things could happen.

The first is that you realize your mistake, and you find out you have to give the employee even more paid days off on top of the PTO in order to make sure you are compliant. The second is that you don’t realize your mistake, you don’t give the employee the days they are legally entitled to, and you open yourself up to a lawsuit.

Either way, it doesn’t sound good.

How Popular Are Paid Sick Leave Laws Anyway?


Of course, this whole problem becomes much less of an issue if not many places require paid sick leave. Now obviously, California having a law of this nature on its own is huge because California itself is huge. But what you might want to know is how big this trend is nationwide. To find out, all we have to do is look at some numbers.

Here are some facts about paid sick leave as of August 2015:

  • Every state has a law requiring paid sick leave for at least some state workers.
  • Nine states have a law requiring that any employer already required to offer paid sick leave (i.e., for the most part, state workers) to also allow the time to be used to take care of a sick family member.
  • Three states (California, Connecticut, and Massachusetts) have a state-wide law requiring some level of paid sick leave to the majority of workers.
  • Many big cities all over – including Washington D.C.; New York City; Newark, NJ; Philadelphia; Seattle; and Portland, Oregon – require some amount of paid sick leave.
  • A lot more laws are pending in 2016.

In other words, this trend is a pretty big deal. However, there is a good chance you already knew that. After all, paid sick leave has been a big topic for a while now. Yet despite the fact that this issue has been around for a while, its intersection with PTO is projected to be one of the biggest HR issues of 2016. That tells you that people might be aware they need to offer paid sick leave, but might not be as aware that just offering PTO might not be enough.

The Intersection of PTO and Paid Sick Leave

The real point of this post isn’t to talk about paid sick leave, but sick leaves intersection with a single-bucket PTO system in general.

It is easy to assume that if you offer PTO, you have all your bases covered. And in a lot of cases, you might be right. However, there are times when offering a one-stop shop for paid leave just does not cut it.

There are several reasons this might be the case. For example, let’s pretend that a California employer offers a PTO system that requires employee’s to use PTO in at least four hour lumps. Yet the state’s paid sick leave law requires that sick leave can be used in at as little as two hour lumps.

Similarly, if that same California employer does not allow any PTO days to be carried over into the next year, then it might have a problem with California’s law that requires accrued sick time to be carried over.

You see how easy it is for problems to arise around this topic?

PTO does not have to be a problem, though. Where there is a paid sick leave law, there is no mandate that the sick leave requirements be offered on their own, separate from a PTO policy. However, if you do offer PTO instead of a discrete paid sick day policy, you need to take steps to make sure your PTO policy is also in compliance with any other leave laws that might apply to you.

Do this by reviewing the law and your policy and making sure they are in sync. Get some legal counsel on the matter. There is a lot you might need to worry about in 2016, but your PTO policy does not need to be one of those issues.

Other Predicted Issues for HR in 2016

Speaking of other things you may need to worry about in 2016, according to that same BNA report, here are some of the other legal issues that are expected to be big in the world of human resources this year:

  • As always, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), especially in regards to employee misclassification, is expected to remain a big issue for employers in 2016. In order to combat this issue, make sure you are classifying employees as exempt or nonexempt in a legally compliant manner, as well as complying with all of the FLSA’s other regulations.
  • Transgender equality is also expected to be big. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is pushing to pass more regulations that will ban discrimination against transgender people. So make sure to watch for laws and regulations on this issue in your city, county, or state.
  • Other discrimination issues that might be problematic this year are religious discrimination and national origin discrimination. It is predicted that recent terrorist events will put a spotlight on certain religions and national origins, which could play a negative role in hiring and employment decisions. Thus, organizations like the EEOC are on alert for signs of discrimination against these workers.

While there are many other things you might want to have on your radar in 2016, the four talked about here are expected to be big ones. So for starters, take some time to make sure you are on top of these issues in your workplace.

Hindsight is 20/20, but heeding advice from the experts and taking proactive steps to avoid problems can be 20/20 as well, only without all of the legal headaches that waiting until your problems show up in the rearview mirror can cause.

The Takeaway

The takeaway here is simple: do not just assume that your PTO policy covers all the bases of any required sick leave that you have to offer. Just because you are giving your employees paid time off does not mean you are meeting all the requirements of your state’s or city’s paid sick leave law.

Take active steps to check your policy with the requirements of any applicable laws. It does not have to be a long process or an expensive one, but the alternative of waiting until a problem occurs to realize you aren’t meeting the requirements could be both costly and time-consuming.



Ashley Shaw is an experienced Legal Writer with years of experience. After receiving her JD, she worked for years in a corporate environment writing on business and employment law topics

Get Business Legal Updates

Please provide your full name.
Please provide a valid email address.
We respect your privacy, and we will never share your information. Unsubscribe at any time.

Related Publications

Did someone say it’s Leave The Office Early Day? Enjoy your afternoon off, and if you have questions about paid leave, we’ve got you covered:

June 2, 2021

Dallas, San Antonio and Austin each passed local ordinances requiring private employers in the cities to provide paid sick leave for employees. Read the source article here

June 5, 2020

On March 18, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was signed into law, and its provisions give many employees paid leave if the employee needs to take time from work due to the coronavirus (also known as COVID-19). In short, the law was created in response to the COVID-19 public emergency, and the…

March 20, 2020

San Antonio is repeatedly being challenged by the State of Texas over what has obviously become a cultural, social, and political chasm between city and state in how it administers legal affairs. This has serious implications for its new sick leave laws and stance toward Chick-fil-a

August 1, 2019

Nasir and Matt talk about the recent lawsuits filed against companies in Manila about spam texting. They then answer, “We have a PTO system in place that allows employees to take days off, but many of my employees are requesting the same days off because of the World Cup. Can I prevent some from doing…

June 18, 2014
Legally Sound Smart Business cover art

Legally Sound Smart Business

A business podcast with a legal twist

Legally Sound Smart Business is a podcast by Pasha Law PC covering different topics in business advice and news with a legal twist with attorneys Nasir Pasha and Matt Staub.
Apple Podcast badge
Google Podcast badge
Spotify Podcast badge

Latest Episodes

November 21, 2023

In this episode, Nasir Pasha and Matt Staub explore the legal implications of Artificial Intelligence in the business world. They delve into the most talked-about issue of 2023: AI and its impact on the legal landscape. Although AI isn’t necessarily a new topic, it has many unanswered questions in the legal world. Nasir and Matt…

July 12, 2023

In this episode, Attorney Nasir Pasha and Attorney Matt Staub delve deep into the complexities of mass layoffs and offer valuable insights, real-life examples, and practical advice to employers grappling with the aftermath of such challenging situations. Nasir and Matt emphasize the critical importance of effective communication when executing mass layoffs. They stress the need…

January 9, 2023

As the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe, businesses scrambled to adapt to the new reality it presented. In this blog post, we dive into the case of Goldman Sachs, a financial services giant, to examine their response to the crisis and the lessons other businesses can learn from their return-to-office strategy. From prioritizing employee…

October 28, 2022

Full Podcast Transcript NASIR: Finally, my two favorite worlds have collided – both the law and the chess – right here at Memorial Park in Houston, Texas. Windy day. We have some background noise – ambient noise. What are the two worlds that collided? Well, Hans Neimann has sued Magnus Carlsen for defamation in one…

September 26, 2022

Through a five-round championship bout, Matt travels to Texas from California to determine which state is better for business. Will it be a knockout with a clear winner or will it go to the scorecards?

July 7, 2022

Whether you are buying or selling a business, the transaction goes through the same steps. However, they are viewed from different perspectives. Sellers may not want to fully disclose all the blind spots while Buyers will want otherwise. Nasir and Matt battle it out in this Buyer vs. Seller to determine who has the advantage!…

May 12, 2022

When it comes to Restrictive Covenants, employers are fighting to keep their company safe while employees may use them to their advantage. Keep listening to find out if the Employer or the Employee wins this battle. Round 1: Trade Secrets A company’s trade secrets encompass a whole range of information and are one of the…

February 14, 2022

The Supreme Court rejected the nation’s vaccine mandate. Businesses with 100 or more employees are NOT required to have their employees vaccinated or go through weekly testings. However, this policy remains in effect for health care facilities. In this episode of Legally Sound | Smart Business, the team sat down to discuss their thoughts on this ruling.

December 1, 2021

In this episode of Legally Sound | Smart Business by Pasha Law PC, Nasir and Matt cover the Business of Healthcare. There is more to the healthcare industry than just doctors and nurses. Many Americans have health insurance to cover their yearly needs, but most Americans are not aware of what really goes on behind…

October 12, 2021

In our latest episode, Nasir and Matt are covering the legal issues on Social Media. The average person spends most of their day on social media, whether they are scrolling for hours or publishing their own content. However, just because you publish your own content on Instagram does not equate to you owning that image….

September 28, 2021

What is a Non-Disclosure Agreement, and when do I need one? In this episode, Nasir and Matt shares why you need to use Non-Disclosure Agreements, basic facts about NDA’s, and discuss about the infamous Jenner-Woods story. Having the right Non-Disclosure Agreement in place not only protects you and your business, but it also makes the…

June 16, 2021

Covered in this episode of Legally Sound Smart Business are some typical business mistakes blunders small businesses often make and how to avoid them. Blunder #1: Copying and pasting agreements It may sound like a good idea at the time, but this blunder comes with hidden pitfalls. Having an attorney draft terms that are specific…

February 4, 2021

How you terminate an employee can make the difference between a graceful transition to avoidable negative outcomes like a dramatic exit or even a lawsuit. We gathered a panel of experts and asked them – is there a “right way” to fire an employee? We would like to thank our guests for this episode: Amr…

December 2, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned nearly every aspect of life on its head, and that certainly holds true for the business world. In this episode, Matt and Nasir explain how the early days of the pandemic felt like the Wild West and how the shifting legal playing field left a lot open to interpretation and…

November 16, 2020

After plenty of ups and downs, our buyer has finally closed on the purchase of their business. While we’re marking this down in the ‘wins’ column, it never hurts to review the game tape. In this final episode, our hosts, Matt Staub and Nasir Pasha, return to the deal almost a year later to reflect…

September 15, 2020

The ink is drying on the signature line and things are looking great for our buyer. After so much hard work, the finish line is in sight and the cheering within ear shot.   Though the landlord is still serving friction, things seem safe to move forward and for now, our buyer will be keeping…

July 31, 2020

Though things are coming along well, the journey would not be interesting if it was purely smooth sailing. After our buyer opens escrow, they are forced to push the closing date back when suddenly a letter from an attorney was received claiming the business, we are buying has a trade mark on the name!  Now…

June 12, 2020

With frustration at an all-time high and professionalism at an all-time low, our friend the Buyer has “had it” with the Seller and quite frankly their lack of knowledge. At present our Buyer is rightfully concerned that the latest misstep from our loose-lipped Seller will threaten not only the entire operation of the businesses but…

May 11, 2020

As we go deeper into the buying process, we start to uncover more challenges from our seller and encounter some of the wrenches they are tossing our way. When we last left off in episode three our team was knee deep in due diligence for our buyer, had already penned and signed the Letter of…

April 4, 2020

One word–interloper! When a new mysterious broker enters the transaction and starts to kick up dust, Nasir and Matt take the reins. The seller signed off on the letter of intent (see episode 2), yet this “business broker” serves only friction and challenges by refusing to send financials, whilst demanding more of a firm commitment…

April 4, 2020

Just as most stories and deals start out, everyone is optimistic, idealistic and full of hope for clear skies. It’s a perfect outlook with a perfect setup for the ups and downs yet to come. Peek further behind the curtain and into the first steps of buying a business: the letter of intent. After the…

April 4, 2020

When a savvy buyer hears opportunity knocking to purchase a prime positioned business, she decides not to go it alone and taps in the professionals to help navigate what could potentially be a fruitful acquisition. “Behind the Buy” is a truly rare and exclusive peak into the actual process, dangers, pitfalls and achievements, that can…

August 7, 2019

GrubHub is subject to two “matters of controversy” that have likely become common knowledge to business owners: “fake” orders and unfriendly microsites.

May 28, 2019

In this podcast episode, Matt and Nasir breakdown the legal issues of the subscription industry’s business on the internet. Resources A good 50-state survey for data breach notifications as of July 2018. California Auto-Renewal Law (July 2018) Privacy Policies Law by State Why Users of Ashley Madison May Not Sue for Data Breach [e210] Ultimate…

March 12, 2019

In recording this episode’s topic on the business buying process, Matt’s metaphor, in comparing the process to getting married probably went too far, but they do resemble one another. Listen to the episode for legal advice on buying a business.

December 3, 2018

Nasir and Matt return to discuss the different options available to companies looking to raise funds through general solicitation and crowdfunding. They discuss the rules associated with the various offerings under SEC regulations and state laws, as well as more informal arrangements. The two also discuss the intriguing story about a couple who raised over…

July 24, 2018

Flight Sim Labs, a software add-on creator for flight simulators, stepped into a PR disaster and possibly some substantial legal issues when it allegedly included a Trojan horse of sorts as malware to combat pirating of its $100 Airbus A320 software. The hidden test.exe file triggered anti-virus software for good reason as it was actually…

April 17, 2018

Attorneys Matt Staub and Nasir Pasha examine Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional hearings about the state of Facebook. The two also discuss Cambridge Analytica and the series of events that led to the congressional hearings, the former and current versions of Facebook’s Terms of Service, and how businesses should be handling data privacy. Full Podcast Transcript NASIR:…

March 10, 2018

The Trump presidency has led to a major increase in ICE immigration enforcement. It’s critical for business owners to both comply with and know their rights when it comes to an ICE audit or raid. Nasir, Matt, and Pasha Law attorney Karen McConville discuss how businesses can prepare for potential ICE action and how to…

February 5, 2018

New years always bring new laws. Effective January 1, 2018, California has made general contractors jointly liable for the unpaid wages, fringe benefits, and other benefit payments of a subcontractor. Nasir and Matt discuss who the new law applies to and how this affects all tiers in the general contractor-subcontractor relationship. Click here to learn…

January 2, 2018

With a seemingly endless amount of new mattress options becoming available, it is unsurprising that the market has become increasingly aggressive. As companies invest in more innovative solutions to get in front of customers, review sites, blogs and YouTube videos have moved to the forefront of how customers are deciding on their mattresses and how…

December 7, 2017

In recent months explosive amounts of high profile allegations of sexual harassment, assault, and varying acts of inappropriate behavior have transcended every sector of our professional world. With a deluge from Hollywood and politics, and the private workforce, accusations have inundated our feeds and mass media. This harassment watershed has not only been felt within…

November 16, 2017

If you are not familiar with the EB-5 program started in 1990 to give green cards to certain qualified investors in the United States, then you may not have been alone a few years ago. Currently, the EB-5 program has since exploded since its inception and now hits its quotas consistently each year. The program…

October 10, 2017

Government requests come in multiple forms. They can come in as requests for client information or even in the form of investigating your company or your employees. Requests for Client Information General Rule to Follow Without understanding the nuances of criminal and constitutional law and having to cite Supreme Court cases, any government requests for…

August 24, 2017

Nasir and Matt suit up to talk about everything pertaining to employee dress codes. They discuss the Federal laws that govern many rules for employers, as well as state specific nuances in California and other states. The two also emphasize the difficulty in identifyingreligious expression in dress and appearance, how gender-related dress codes have evolved…

June 28, 2017

Nasir and Matt discuss the life cycle of a negative online review. They talk about how businesses should properly respond, how to determine if the review is defamatory, the options available to seek removal of the review, how to identify anonymous reviewers, whether businesses can require clients to agree not to write negative reviews, and…

June 7, 2017

On this episode of the Ultimate Legal Breakdown, Nasir and Mattbreak down social media marketing withguests Tyler Sickmeyer and Kyle Weberof Fidelitas Development. They first discuss contests and promotionsand talk about where social media promotions can go wrong,when businesses are actually running an illegal lottery, and the importance of a soundterms and conditions. Next, they…

April 3, 2017

On this episode of the Ultimate Legal Breakdown, Nasir and Matt go in depth with the subscription box business. They discuss where subscription box companies have gone wrong(4:30), the importance of a specifically tailored terms and conditions(6:30), how to structure return policies (11:45), product liability concerns (14:45),the offensive and defensive side of intellectual property (19:00),…

February 1, 2017

Nasir and Matt discuss the suit against Apple that resultedfrom a car crashed caused by the use of FaceTime while driving. They also discuss howforeseeable use of apps can increase liability for companies. Full Podcast Transcript NASIR: Hi and welcome to Legally Sound Smart Business! I’m Nasir Pasha. MATT: And I’m Matt Staub. Two attorneys…

January 5, 2017

The guys kick in the new year by first discussing Cinnabon’s portrayal of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia soon after her death, as well as other gaffes involving Prince and David Bowie. They alsotalk about right of publicity claims companies could be held liable for based on using someone’s name or likeness for commercial gain.

December 22, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss the recent incidentat a Victoria’s Secret store where the store manager kicked out all black women after one black woman was caught shoplifting. They then each present dueling steps businesses should take when employees are accused of harassment.

December 8, 2016

Nasir and Matt return to talk about the different types of clients that may have outstanding invoices and how businesses can convert unpaid bills to getting paid.

November 10, 2016

After a long break, Nasir and Matt are back to discuss a Milwaukee frozen custard stand that is now revising it’s English only policy for employees. The guys also discuss how similar policies could be grounds for discrimination and what employers can do to revise their policies.

October 6, 2016

The guys discuss the new California law that allows actors to request the removal of their date of birth and birthdays on their IMDB page and why they think the law won’t last. They also discuss how age discrimination claims arise for business owner.

September 29, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss the racial discrimination claims surroundingAirbnb and how it’s handled the situation. They also discuss some practical tips for businesses experiencing similar issues.

September 8, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss whyAmazon seller accounts are getting suspended and banned without notice and how business owners can rectify this situation through a Corrective Action Plan.

August 25, 2016

Nasir and Matt talk about the accusations surroundingfashion giant Zararipping off the designs of independent artists like Tuesday Bassen and howsmaller companies can battle the industry giants.

August 18, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss Brave Software’s ad replacing technology that has caught the eye of almost every national newspaper and has a potential copyright infringement claim looming. They also welcome digital marketing expert Matt Michaelree to speak on the specifics of what Brave is attempting to do and whether it has the answers moving forward.

July 28, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Gretchen Carlson against Fox CEO Roger Ailes. They also talk aboutthe importance of sexual harassment training and properly handling such allegations in the office.

July 15, 2016

Nasir and Matt talk about the changes at Starbucks that have led to many disgruntled employees and customers.

We represent businesses.
That’s all we do.

Oh, and we love it.

We love our work. We love reviewing that lease for your new location. We thrive on closing that acquisition that nearly fell through. We’re fulfilled when we structure a business to grow, raise capital, and be legally protected.

We focus on developing close relationships with our clients by being like business partners. A partner who provides essential, personalized, proactive legal support.

We do all of this without utilizing the traditional billable hour model. You pay for the value we bring, not the time spent on calls, emails, and meetings.

Our team is made up of attorneys and staff that share these values and we are retained by clients who want the same.

Pasha Law PC operates in the states of California, Illinois, New York, and Texas.

Meet Our Team

Fractional General Counsel Services

Pasha Law Select offers the expertise of a high-end general counsel legal team for every aspect of your business at a fixed monthly rate. Pasha Law Select is deliberately designed to allow our legal team to be proactive, to anticipate, and to be comprehensive in serving our clients. To be great lawyers, we need to know our clients. We can’t know our clients unless we represent a select number of clients in the long-term. This is Pasha Law Select.

Learn More