New Mexico’s paid sick leave law takes effect

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Many New Mexicans have had to choose between their well-being and their job, especially during the pandemic. That all changes July 1, when a new paid sick leave law takes effect in the state.

Dona and Steve Orgeron told KOB 4 they suffer from multiple health issues and have had to take time off over the years, to take care of each other. When Steve tested positive for COVID-19, he said that was the last straw for his former employer.

“He was very, very sick, and he called his boss and said, well, because of COVID, he needed five days off,” Dona said.

Steve’s employer fired him, the reality for many who have not had access to paid sick leave.

“If he had just been able to take care of himself when he was getting sick, just take a day off, then maybe none of that would have happened,” Dona said.

When the Healthy Workplaces Act of 2021 takes effect, private employers in New Mexico will be required to allow their employees to take time off.

“Employees that need treatment, recovery time or preventative care for a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition may take paid sick leave,” said Felipe Guevara, a workers’ rights attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “If the employee needs to take time off to deal with domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking, those individuals also have the right to paid sick leave.”

Employees can also take time off to care for a loved one.

“That includes anyone within a family — anyone that you would consider a family member,” Guevara said.

For every 30 hours worked, employees will earn one hour of paid sick leave. That accrual starts the minute they go to work Friday morning. Employees can earn 64 hours, or eight days, of paid sick leave during a 12-month period.

“While 64 hours is your minimum, an employer can give you more per in that 12 hour period,” Guevara said. “If an employer violates your right to paid sick leave by not giving it to you, by simply not letting you accrue it at the rate that you’re supposed to, or any of the other rights we’ve discussed about today — if they do violate this law, you may sue your employer in a civil court.”

Employees may also report violations to the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions.          

Guevara also said an employee should let their employers know, as soon as possible, that they need to take paid sick leave and how long they will be out. That employee is not obligated to find someone to cover for them or to provide paperwork proving they took leave for a valid reason, unless they took off more than two days in a row.

“It’s just going to be better for, of course the employees, and it’s going to be much better for the businesses as well,” Dona said.

For more information on New Mexico paid sick leave, click here.