If an employee gets sick after using all of their Paid Time Off (PTO) for the year, am I obligated to grant them additional paid time for sick leave?

October 23, 2023 ·

What happens when you run out of sick days

Best practices from our HR experts

What happens when an employee runs out of PTO and gets sick? There is no federal law requiring employers to provide sick leave, paid or unpaid. As an employer, you are only required to provide the amount of PTO that you agreed to provide in the employment contract or agreement.

If you do grant PTO, and an employee uses all of their PTO, you are not required to pay for any additional time taken off for sickness, health-related issues, or any other reason.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) does require you to give eligible employees time off to care for themselves or their families, but the FMLA doesn’t require the time to be paid. Read on for more information regarding PTO for salaried employees.

What are the state-specific laws concerning PTO?

Be sure to check with your state’s specific laws to ensure compliance. Michigan, for example, does not have any specific state laws concerning PTO. Your state-specific Department of Labor website should have the most up-to-date paid leave requirements.

Below we’ll cover some of the state-specific regulations around paid sick time.

Arizona PTO laws

The 2017 Fair Wages and Healthy Families Act governs all aspects of paid time off in Arizona. All employers must provide paid sick leave, regardless of their size, and employers can use their time to care for themselves or an immediate family member.

Employees accrue 1 hour per every 30 hours worked. A business with more than 15 employees can cap accrued sick leave at 40 hours a year. If you have fewer than 15 employees, the maximum number of sick leave hours is 24.

If you don’t frontload accrued sick days, your employees can carry them into the next year.

California sick leave laws

All employers must provide sick leave for staff who have worked for at least 30 days. Employees accrue 1 hour for every 30 worked, with a cap. You can limit sick time to 3 days or 24 hours per year. An employee can carry over accrued paid sick leave until they reach 48 hours.

Colorado paid sick leave laws

There is an accrued paid sick leave limit of 48 hours, there is no waiting period for employees to use their hours, and they can carry hours over to the next year.

Connecticut labor laws

Connecticut labor law states that an employer with 50 employees or more must provide paid sick leave. To be considered an eligible employee, a staff member must commit to working 10 hours a week.

There is an accrual limit of 40 hours, and 1 hour is earned for every 40 hours worked. An eligible employee can carry over up to 40 hours into the next year.

District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) PTO laws

All organizations must offer paid leave. Employees can use their sick days after 90 days and carry over hours. Accrual depends on business size.

  • Employers with fewer than 25 employees must provide 1 earned hour of paid sick leave for every 87 worked with a cap of 24 hours.
  • Employers with 25-99 employees must provide 1 hour per every 43 worked with a max of 40 hours per year.
  • Also, employers with more than 100 employees should provide 1 hour for every 37 worked with a max of 56.

Maine employment laws

In Maine, the employment law states that an eligible employee can take paid time off for any reason. Employers must provide PTO days if they have over 10 workers and employees work over 120 hours yearly. A seasonal worker is considered an exempt employee.

Employers who wish to deny PTO hours must show that they would suffer undue hardship.

Employees can accrue paid leave and carry up to 40 hours into the next year.

Maryland labor laws

Labor law in Maryland says that employers with more than 15 employees must provide accrued paid sick leave. Workers gain 1 hour towards this leave for every 30 hours worked. The maximum for accrued hours is 40 per year, with a total limit of 64 hours overall.

Employees become eligible for paid medical leave after working 106 days or more.

Massachusetts unpaid leave laws

Employers with fewer than 11 employees must provide unpaid leave. Once you hire 11 employees or more, you must offer paid sick time off. Workers earn 1 hour for every 30 worked, and the maximum accrued sick time is 40 hours per year. Employers may choose to limit carryover hours.

An eligible employee can only use their sick day after working for 90 days.

Michigan paid sick leave laws

Organizations with more than 50 employees must offer paid sick leave, with employees earning 1 hour for every 35 hours worked. Paid leave hours are accrued up to 40 hours per year. An eligible employee cannot take a sick day until after working for 90 days.

If you decide to give your employees all their sick days at the beginning of the year, then the hours don’t carry over.

Nevada employment laws

Nevada employment law states that an eligible employee can take paid leave for any reason. Any employer with over 50 employees is required to offer medical leave after their 1st 2 years in business.

Employees are not required to provide a reason for using their PTO hours and can use them for personal time. A worker earns 0.01923 hours per every hour worked.

There is no accrual limit, but employees can limit carryover to 40 hours. Workers must also wait 90 calendar days before using their accrued sick leave.

New Jersey paid sick leave laws

All organizations must provide paid sick leave according to New Jersey employment law. A worker accrues 1 hour for every 30 hours worked with a limit of 40 accrued PTO hours. Employees can carry over their hours, and they can’t use accrued sick leave until they work for 120 days.

New Mexico labor laws

Labor law in New Mexico states that all employers must provide paid medical leave. Employees earn 1 hour for every 30 hours worked with a cap of 64 hours. They can carry over hours and can use their PTO hours immediately.

New York PTO laws

If your business runs with fewer than 5 employees or earns less than $1 million in revenue, you must offer unpaid sick leave. Employers with 5 employees or more or who earn more than $1 million in revenue are required to provide sick leave.

Employees can accrue 1 hour for every 30 hours and carry over sick time. If you have 99 employees or fewer, the accrual cap is 40 hours per year. For those with 100 workers or more, the maximum is 56 hours.

Oregon paid sick leave laws

Local employers with over 10 employees must provide paid sick leave. Organizations that primarily work across state lines but operate in Oregon must provide paid leave if they have six employees or more. Employees earn 1 and 1/3 hours per every 40 days worked, with a 40-hour limit.

Workers must wait 90 days to use their medical leave hours. They can carry over 40 hours per year, and employers can limit their PTO hourly balance to 80 hours total.

Rhode Island PTO laws

For companies with up to 18 employees, employers must offer unpaid sick leave. After they hit this mark, they must offer paid medical leave, with employees earning 1 hour per every 35 worked. The limit is 40 hours.

Employers can decide whether or not to enact a waiting period. If you choose not to let employees carry over hours, then you must pay them for unused PTO.

Vermont sick leave laws

Vermont’s sick leave law requires that all employers offer sick leave to eligible employees. Workers earn 1 hour for every 52 hours worked with a limit of 40 hours per year, and employees can carry it over. If you decide to offer PTO days as a lump sum, hours do not carry over.

Washington paid sick leave laws

All employers must offer paid sick leave with few exceptions, and employees earn 1 hour for every 40 worked. There is an accrual limit of 40 hours per year, but they can carry them over. Employees must wait 90 days before using their paid PTO hours.

Considerations for employers without state-specific laws

Some companies prefer to divide PTO into categories such as sick leave, vacation, personal days, etc., with a defined amount of time allowed to be taken off for each category. Other companies find it easier to group together all of the potential time off as PTO.

However, grouping sick leave, vacation, family emergency, and mental health days into the same PTO category can lead to the unintended consequence of having employees use up their PTO, and then being forced to miss work later in the year if they get sick.

To prevent this problem, it’s wise to counsel your employees to save some of their PTO for sick days. If you offer employees 10 days of PTO per year, for example, you may want to advise staff members during employee onboarding to think of their PTO as one week of vacation (5 days), 4 days for sickness or unexpected emergencies, and 1 day for their birthday.