Hidden Danger for Employers in Arizona’s Paid Sick Leave

Most Arizona employers know that the state has a robust and effective sick leave law, which allows employees to earn either 24 or 40 hours of paid sick leave annually, based on the employer’s size.  This paid time off can be used immediately upon hire or if the employer wishes to impose a waiting period within 90 days after hire. The time off can be accrued at the rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked, or the employer may front-load all the sick leave at the beginning of the year.

However, many Arizona employers are unaware of a hidden landmine in the law, which states that if an employee is terminated within 90 days of using paid sick leave, the termination is presumed to be retaliation for using paid sick leave. The presumption of unlawful retaliation applies if the employer takes any adverse employment action at any point within 90 days of the employee using a paid sick day. Employment actions that may trigger this presumption include termination, suspension, discipline, reduction of hours, or schedule changes.

The presumption can be overcome, but employers must carefully consider all circumstances prior to taking any adverse employment action within 90 days of an employee’s use of paid sick leave. Any disciplinary action applied during this period must be shown to be reasonable, fair and equitably applied, and in accordance with the employer’s usual practice.

Employers are encouraged to consider the circumstances carefully and consult with legal counsel when contemplating any adverse employment actions within 90 days of an employee using sick leave. Contact Employers Council with questions; we can help.