Paid sick leave isn't mandatory in Iowa - but it is elsewhere

Last week, this column discussed several unusual or inconsistent state and local employment laws.

The reason for this discussion is there has been a trend among cities, counties and states to develop their own employment laws in categories that can reach beyond “traditional” anti-discrimination laws, such as dealing with race, gender, national origin, age and disability discrimination.

This week, we’ll cover some additional categories.

Female board members — California’s Senate recently approved a law that would require all publicly held companies headquartered in California to have at least one female board member by the end of 2019, and that by 2021 boards of directors must have between two to three female board members depending upon board size.

The bill proceeds to the California assembly for further discussion.

Paid sick leave — In Iowa, paid sick leave is not mandatory. In Arizona and New York, however, even small employers must provide paid sick leave to all employees based on the number of hours worked.

In Arizona, for example, businesses with 15 or more employees must provide a minimum of 40 hours yearly paid sick leave.

Businesses with fewer than 15 employees must provide at least 24 hours of paid sick leave.

Sexual harassment training — Three states — California, Connecticut and Maine — require companies with a certain number of employees to provide sexual harassment training to supervisors.

Other states — Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont — encourage but do not require employers to provide sexual harassment training.


Effective October 2018, New York requires every employer in the state, regardless of size, to adopt a sexual harassment policy and distribute it to all employees, and to provide annual training. The law requires “interactive training,” so merely providing a video or reading materials without live contact is not sufficient.

Again, while not required under federal or Iowa law, providing sexual harassment training to supervisors and employees is a best employment practices and may help protect an employer in the case of a lawsuit.

Noncompete agreements — While noncompete employment agreements are standard in Iowa, they are not enforceable in Illinois, Massachusetts, North Dakota and Arkansas.

In North Dakota, for example, they are allowed only between partners and between the buyers and sellers of a company. They are not permitted between employers and employees.

Illinois expressly prohibits private-sector employers from entering into a covenant not to compete with any low-wage employee.

The recent Massachusetts law not only prohibits noncompete agreements with lower wage employees but also with minors, students and with employees that were terminated without cause or laid off.

Overtime — The federal overtime law requires that all employers pay overtime to non-exempt employees after 40 hours per workweek. The law allows the employer to determine when the workweek begins and ends.

In California, however, employees must be paid time and a half after an eight hour day, and for the first eight hours they work on the seventh consecutive day worked in a week. California employees also are entitled to double time pay if they work more than 12 hours in a day or more than eight hours on the seventh consecutive day of work.


Sexual-orientation discrimination — Most states, including Iowa, prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Alabama, however, has not adopted a state law barring discrimination on that basis, and federal law has not yet barred such discrimination — although some federal courts have concluded that sexual orientation discrimination violates the federal Civil Rights Act’s prohibition against sex discrimination.

Terms of employment — There should be an at-will employment disclaimer in every employee handbook.

However, at least one state requires that employers communicate such information in a particular way. For example, in South Carolina, at-will employment disclaimers are not valid unless they are printed in capital letters and underlined on the cover page of employee handbooks.

Iowa has no such statute.

• Wilford H. Stone is a lawyer with Lynch Dalls in Cedar Rapids.

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