Paid time off: Your State-by-State Guide to Paid Time Off Laws in Major Cities

Paid time off (PTO) as a concept is nothing new. It is, in fact, as old as the Egyptian pyramids. Reports say that those who worked on the royal tombs in ancient Egypt were given paid sick leaves when needed. Despite that, paid time off is not as widespread as employees would like it to be. There is considerable disparity between the PTO available for workers in different states.

The Current State of Paid Time Off

Workers in Europe are legally entitled to a minimum of 20 days or 4 working weeks of paid leave per year. However, the United States does not have any federal law mandating organizations to provide paid leave. There is, however, unpaid sick leave which is required under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Individual states are free to implement laws on paid time off as they wish and some of them have done so. Currently 15 states along with Washington D.C. have mandated paid leaves. Of course, the leave durations, accrual policies, and use requirements vary which does make compliance a challenge for employers that operate in multiple states.

percent of private industry workers with access to paid sick leave, vacation, and holidays, by wage category, March 2020

In addition, employers have the flexibility to enact their own paid time off policies on top of what is mandated by the state. These policies differ depending on the size and workforce strength of the organization as well. The wage category of each employee may also influence the paid time off they receive, with highest earners typically commanding the most lucrative benefits.

State-by-State Guide to Paid Time Off Laws

Understanding the state PTO laws is essential as it will invariably impact any paid time off policy that employers choose to implement. With that in mind, here is a guide to paid time off laws in the major cities and states in the United States.


In California, most employees, including temporary and part-time workers, who have worked for the same employer for a period of 30 days from the start of their employment are eligible for paid leave. Employees are entitled to accrue a minimum of 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they have worked. It becomes possible for employees to utilize their paid sick leave starting for the 90th day of their employment.

Employers have the option of limiting employees to a maximum of 24 hours of paid sick leave in one year, equivalent to 3 working days. They may also limit the amount of accrued sick leave that can be carried over to 48 hours or 6 working days.

Several areas in California have their own local laws pertaining to paid time off as well. Los Angeles and San Francisco are two of them.


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Los Angeles

Los Angeles has a few additions to the paid time off laws of the state of California. Under the local laws, employers may limit the use of sick leave to 48 hours per year. The optional limit for accrued sick leave to be carried over is 72 hours. Of course, employers have the freedom of raising those limits or not placing any.

San Francisco

In San Francisco, employers that have 10 or more employees have the option of capping the sick time balance of the employee at 72 hours. However, employers with less than 10 employees can cap that balance at 40 hours if they choose to do so.

New York

The state law of New York provides a comprehensive set of provisions around paid sick leave, effective from September 30, 2020, as follows.

  • Employers that have 4 employees or fewer and a net income of $1 million or less, as per the previous tax year will have to provide 40 hours of unpaid sick leave in a calendar year.
  • Employers that have 4 employees or fewer and a net income of over $1 million, as per the previous tax year will have to provide 40 hours of paid sick leave in a calendar year.
  • Employers that have 5 to 99 employees will have to provide 40 hours of paid sick leave in a calendar year.
  • Employers that have 100 employees or more will have to provide 56 hours of paid sick leave in a calendar year.

The paid sick leaves are to be accrued at a minimum rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours. Employers are, of course, free to offer more. Additionally, employers also have the option of offering the full amount of leaves upfront at the beginning of the calendar year. These rules cover almost every kind of employee except government employees.

Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. allows employees to accrue leaves under the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act. The amount of leaves depends on the size of the employer, as follows.

  • Employers with upto 24 employees must provide 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 87 hours, with the maximum being 3 days per calendar year.
  • Employers with 25 to 99 employees must provide 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 43 hours, with the maximum being 5 days per calendar year.
  • Employers with over 100 employees must provide 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 37 hours, with the maximum being 7 days per calendar year.

The rules are slightly different for restaurant and bar employers. Tipped employees working for such employers are entitled to an accrual of 1 hour paid sick leave for every 43 hours up to 5 days in a calendar year. This is applicable for all tipped employees irrespective of the total number of employees under the employer.


Under the state law of Washington, employees are entitled to 1 hour of paid sick leave per 40 hours that they have worked. Employers must also allow their employees to carry over a minimum of 40 hours of unused paid sick leave that they have accrued.


Massachusetts allows employees to earn up paid sick leave of up to 40 hours per calendar year if they are working for an employer with at least 11 employees. For employers with less than 11 employees, there is a provision for earning and using 40 hours of unpaid sick leave every year. Employees, in both cases, are to earn the sick leave at a rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours of working.

How to Support Paid Time Off in Your Organization

In most cases, employers are free to follow the state mandated leave policies. They are also mostly free to offer extra paid time off on top of what the state requires, if they wish to do so. Irrespective of the choice made, it is imperative that employers enforce a clearly defined paid time off policy within their organization. To support this policy, you must increase transparency around time off and ensure accurate documented time off tracking. Documentation will also help avoid potential litigation around time off as most states require employers to maintain records.

Using a robust cloud-based time off tracking system will solve all of these challenges and more. These solutions will allow you to configure your time off policies exactly as you need them to be and apply those policies across the organization uniformly for labor law compliance. You may also get features like team calendars to help managers and supervisors to easily track time off requests and absences quickly for better resource management. Choosing a solution with a mobile app will be even better since it gives employees the flexibility to apply and monitor time off, anytime and anywhere.


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Arpan Patra
Arpan Patra
Arpan is an assistant content marketing manager at Replicon. He enjoys learning and writing about technologies that are making the world a better place. Replicon provides award-winning products that make it easy to manage your workforce. With complete solution sets for client billing, project costing, and time and attendance management, Replicon enables the capture, administration, and optimization of your most underutilized and important asset: time.
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