In 2010, only 58% of the private sector workforce had access to paid sick days. Among those lucky enough to have time off for illness, only 30% are allowed to use that time to care for sick children. Nine states (California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin) and the District of Columbia have passed laws that enable workers to use their accrued sick leave or other paid leave to care for a sick family member. These laws, often referred to as "kin care" laws, help to fill in the gaps of the Family Medical Leave Act, by providing paid time off to care for family.
A Better Balance has filed an amicus curiae brief on this topic in support of the plaintiffs/respondents in United Airlines, Inc. v. Air Line Pilots Assoc., Int'l. The case, which is before the California Court of Appeals, addresses the applicability of California's Kin Care statute to United Airlines' paid sick leave benefits. The California Kin Care statute requires that employers who provide paid sick leave allow their employees to use half of that time to care for ill family members. The law does not apply, however, to benefit plans that are subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1973 (ERISA). United claims that by setting up trusts to administer employee paid sick leave benefits, it falls within the exception to the Kin Care statute, and as a result the company does not permit employees to use accrued sick leave to attend to family illness. When Plaintiff Captain Kathleen Wentworth sought to use a portion of her accrued paid sick leave to care for her dying mother, United denied her request and told her to take time off without pay.