The patchwork of paid leave laws around the country is getting increasingly more intricate as local governments adopt mandatory paid time off laws. This week, Bernalillo County, New Mexico added its patch adopting the first paid time off ordinance in New Mexico. Beginning on July 1, 2020, the Employee Wellness Act will require employers within the unincorporated limits of Bernalillo County to permit most employees to accrue paid time off and use that paid time off for any reason. While the ordinance was originally considered earlier this summer as a more traditional paid sick leave law, it was amended to allow for employees to use the time off for “any reason.” The County is following what looks to be a trend started by Maine and Nevada which both passed laws this summer allowing employees to use mandatory accrued paid time off for any reason.

Under Bernalillo County’s new law, covered employers must permit employees to accrue a minimum of one hour of earned paid time off for every 32 hours worked, or employers may choose to use a frontload method and provide for accrual of all earned paid time off at the beginning of the year. The law sets out a three-year phase in period. Employers must allow employees to accrue up to 24 hours of paid time off as of July 1, 2020, 40 hours of paid time off as of July 1, 2021, and 56 hours of paid time off as of July 1, 2022 and thereafter. To be covered by the ordinance, employers must have “a physical premises within the unincorporated limits of the County, which employs two or more employees within the unincorporated limits of the County.”

Employees are required to provide notice to employers “as soon as practicable” for foreseeable leave and “when possible” schedule the use of paid leave “in a manner that does not unduly disrupt the operations of the employer.” Employers, however, may not require advance notice for employees to use paid leave for “emergency or illness.”

Employees may file complaints against employers with the County who is tasked with investigating and adjudicating those complaints. Under the final adopted ordinance, employees are required to exhaust these administrative remedies before filing a claim in court.

Employers with employees working within the unincorporated limits of Bernalillo County, primarily including areas in the South Valley and the East Mountains, should prepare for the following: to provide this paid time off to employees beginning in July 2020, to update their policies, and to provide a notice to all employees that complies with the law. Employers should watch for the County to publish a poster in English and Spanish.

For guidance on leave management issues, please contact a Jackson Lewis attorney. Register here if you would like to receive information about our workthruIT® Leave & Accommodation Suite. The Leave & Accommodation Suite provides subscribers an expanding array of tools to manage leave and accommodation issues, including electronic access to a state and local leave law database that is developed and updated continually by our Disability, Leave & Health Management attorneys.