State Paid Sick Leave and Paid Sick-Leave Preemption Laws Across 50 U.S. States, 2009–2020

Published:February 09, 2022DOI:


      Paid sick leave is associated with lower mortality risks and increased use of health services. Yet, the U.S. lacks a national law, and not all employers offer paid leave, especially to low-wage workers. States have enacted paid sick-leave laws or preemption laws that prohibit local governments from enacting paid sick-leave requirements.


      In 2019 and 2021, state paid sick-leave laws and preemption laws in effect in 2009–2020 were retrieved from Lexis+, coded, and analyzed for coverage and other features. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis were used to estimate the jobs covered by state paid sick-leave laws in 2009–2019.


      In 2009, no state had a paid sick-leave law, and 1 state had preemption. By 2020, a total of 12 states had paid sick-leave laws, with a form of preemption (n=9) or no preemption (n=3), and 18 additional states solely preempted local laws without requiring coverage, creating a regulatory vacuum in those states. Although all state paid sick-leave laws covered private employers and required care for children and spouses, some laws exempted small or public employers or did not cover additional family members. The percentage of U.S. jobs covered by state-required paid sick leave grew from 0% in 2009 to 27.6% in 2019.


      Variation in state paid sick-leave laws, preemption, and lack of employer provision of paid sick leave to low-wage workers creates substantial inequities nationally. The federal government should enact a national paid sick-leave law.
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