FAQs on the New Healthy Workplaces Act, the new paid sick leave law
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed HB 20, the Healthy Workplaces Act (HWA) into law by on April 8, 2021. After its effective date of July 1, 2022, all private companies are required to provide paid sick time or other leave for their employees. The law excludes independent contractors.
Q: Which employers must provide paid leave?
All private employers in New Mexico. The Act excludes air carriers and employees covered by railroad labor agreements or insurance.
Q: What kind of paid leave is available?
Employers must provide leave to employees for the following reasons:
- For mental or physical illness, injury or health condition of employee or family member
- For medical diagnosis, care or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition of employee or family member
- For preventive medical care for employee or family member
- For absences due to domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking suffered by the employee or family member
- To get medical or psychological treatment or other counseling
- For relocation
- To prepare for or participate in legal proceedings
- To get services; or
- To attend meetings at a child's school or place of care related to the child's health or disability.
Q: What persons are covered by paid leave under the new law?
Employees are covered as well as a broad range of family members including grandparents, siblings, domestic partners and even “an individual whose close association with the employee or the employee's spouse or domestic partner is the equivalent of a family relationship.”
Q: What limitations does the new law place on employers?
An employer may not require an employee to use other available leave before using leave provided by new law. Collective bargaining agreements may not waive compliance with the new law. The wage paid under the new law must be equal to the employee's regular hourly wage and/or equal to the minimum wage.
Q: How does an employee earn or accrue the sick leave?
Beginning on July 1, 2022 or when employment begins – whichever is later – at least one hour of sick leave accrues for every 30 hours worked. The leave is capped at 64 hours per year. Or, an employer may grant employees the full 64 hours of leave for the upcoming year on January 1 of each year.
Q: Can an employer require an employee to produce proof to justify taking leave?
An employer can require an employee to provide “reasonable” documentation for leave that is for two or more consecutive work days. Examples of such proof are a doctor's note, a police report, a court document, a signed statement from a victim services organization for “safe time,” or other similar documents. The employer must keep the documents confidential and cannot disclose them without the employee's permission.
Q: Can an employer be penalized for violating the new law?
Yes. There are various possible violations such as retaliating against an employee who tries to take leave, failing to properly accrue leave, mischaracterizing the employee as an independent contractor.
Q: Where can employees go to report or complain of a violation?
An employee can file a complaint with the Department of Workforce Solutions or may file a lawsuit within three years of the date of an alleged violation, and attorney fees are available for a successful lawsuit.