Currently, there are 16 states with medical leave mandates.
While there are differences in policies, the goal is to provide sick leave benefits to employees who don’t have any in their employment contracts.
Unfortunately, there is no Montana sick leave law that enforces private employers to provide time off.
Still, companies may include accrued sick leave credits as part of the benefits.
Let’s take a look at the current medical and other related leave laws in the Treasure State.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
This federal law mandates companies with 50 or more employees to provide at least 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave.
The FMLA applies to private-sector employers, schools, and several public agencies.
Covered employers must provide FMLA benefits to eligible employees and comply with the regulations stated in the legislation.
The primary requirement for FMLA eligibility is to spend at least 12 months or 1,250 hours working for one company.
These months are not required to be in succession for an employee to qualify.
However, an employer must provide compensation to the employee every time.
State Employee Sick Leave Policy
A full-time permanent employee begins accruing sick leave credits on the first day of work.
For the purposes of computing sick leave credits, 2,080 work hours are equivalent to one year.
Usually, sick leave credits are credited at the end of every pay period.
Employees are not eligible to earn paid sick leave unless they have worked continuously for a minimum of 90 days.
If an employee dies in an on-the-job accident, the sick leave benefits will be converted into a death benefit.
It will go to their estate or beneficiary at 100% of the accrued value.
A state agency employee can donate any percentage of their accrued sick leave balance or vacation time.
The donated sick leave credits are transferred to a non-refundable sick leave fund for other state employees.
Employees who have exhausted their accumulated sick leave due to an extensive illness are eligible to use the fund.
Montana State University Current Policies For Time Off
Contract employees, classified employees, faculty employees, and temporary employees are entitled to accrue sick leave.
As indicated in the employment contract, the accumulation of sick leave credits starts on the first day of employment.
To use the leave or claim financial compensation for sick leave credits upon termination, a 90-calendar day waiting period of continuous employment is required.
If an employee’s time of service is interrupted, they’ll have to start again to reach the 90-day requirement.
Sick leave is compensated at the employee’s regular rate of pay. It can be taken in half-hour increments only.
Use of Leave
Sick leave is offered to employees as paid absence for the following reasons but is not limited to:
- Disability or injury due to physical or mental illness
- Delivery, miscarriage, abortion, parental care, or other related medical condition
- Care for a family member who has a critical health condition
- Scheduled for licensed health care provider’s examination, consultation, or treatment
- Maternity leave
- Quarantine is imposed due to exposure to a contagious disease like Covid-19.
- Death of a close relative or another person
Eligible employees may use FMLA combined with sick leave if the purpose for the leave is covered by both the university and the FMLA regulations.
That goes the same if they utilize their maternity leave instead of FMLA.
An employee with an approved annual vacation leave is allowed to swap to sick leave if the situation is justified.
For instance, you caught a contagious illness or got injured while on vacation.
When this happens, the annual leave is preserved because the sick leave will cover the days required to recover.
The employee has to advise and request the leave swap within five days before they report back the duty.
Employees who want to file unplanned sick leave must contact their immediate supervisor ASAP to provide reasonable notice on the first day of absence.
The leave won’t be valid unless authorized by the supervisor.
Nonetheless, university departments may implement specific processes for requesting and approving sick leave.
Supervisors and departments are allowed to reject sick leave requests, especially if they lead to employee schedules being affected.
If the University Human Resources recommends, employees may have to produce medical certification to validate the sick leave.
At the end of every pay period, sick leave accrual is computed and granted.
It is calculated using the number of work hours credited regularly in a specific pay status.
Employees are not allowed to use sick leave credits retrospectively or in advance.
In a pay status, sick leave is accrued at a rate of 0.046125 hours per hour.
This value excludes overtime.
In other words, employees won’t earn sick leave if they work overtime.
Although the cap for earned sick leave is set to twelve annually, there’s no limit on the number of sick hours an employee can accrue.
If an employee hasn’t used their sick leave credits for three years, they may potentially have 36 sick leave days.
Maternity Disability Leave
Montana does provide maternity leave under the Human Right Act, which covers pregnant employees who become incapacitated or temporarily disabled.
Employers cannot force the employee to take more extended leave than is necessary.
A healthy pregnancy usually needs a maternity leave of six weeks following childbirth.
The employee’s job is protected while on leave and may report back to work once the leave is finished.
There should be no benefit reductions for her, and she cannot be discriminated against because of the maternity leave or pregnancy.
This leave is usually taken in conjunction with FMLA law if the pregnant employee needs more time off.
Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)
Employers are not mandated under the PDA to grant pregnant employees time off from work.
Instead, employers must treat them the same way they care for employees who have temporary disabilities not related to pregnancy.
While the Montana sick leave law is mostly associated with FMLA, it’s not necessarily a lost cause.
As more states are implementing paid sick leave for private employees, it wouldn’t be surprising that Montana will feature similar legislation in the future.