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Bernalillo County, New Mexico Adopts Paid Leave For “Any Reason” Law

The patchwork of paid leave laws around the country is getting increasingly more intricate as local governments adopt mandatory paid time off laws. This week, Bernalillo County, New Mexico added its patch adopting the first paid time off ordinance in New Mexico. Beginning on July 1, 2020, the Employee Wellness Act will require employers within the unincorporated limits of Bernalillo County to permit most employees to accrue paid time off and use that paid time off for any reason. While the ordinance was originally considered earlier this summer as a more traditional paid sick leave law, it was amended to allow for employees to use the time off for “any reason.” The County is following what looks to be a trend started by Maine and Nevada which both passed laws this summer allowing employees to use mandatory accrued paid time off for any reason.

Under Bernalillo County’s new law, covered employers must permit employees to accrue a minimum of one hour of earned paid time off for every 32 hours worked, or employers may choose to use a frontload method and provide for accrual of all earned paid time off at the beginning of the year. The law sets out a three-year phase in period. Employers must allow employees to accrue up to 24 hours of paid time off as of July 1, 2020, 40 hours of paid time off as of July 1, 2021, and 56 hours of paid time off as of July 1, 2022 and thereafter. To be covered by the ordinance, employers must have “a physical premises within the unincorporated limits of the County, which employs two or more employees within the unincorporated limits of the County.”

Employees are required to provide notice to employers “as soon as practicable” for foreseeable leave and “when possible” schedule the use of paid leave “in a manner that does not unduly disrupt the operations of the employer.” Employers, however, may not require advance notice for employees to use paid leave for “emergency or illness.”

Employees may file complaints against employers with the County who is tasked with investigating and adjudicating those complaints. Under the final adopted ordinance, employees are required to exhaust these administrative remedies before filing a claim in court.

Employers with employees working within the unincorporated limits of Bernalillo County, primarily including areas in the South Valley and the East Mountains, should prepare for the following: to provide this paid time off to employees beginning in July 2020, to update their policies, and to provide a notice to all employees that complies with the law. Employers should watch for the County to publish a poster in English and Spanish.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2019

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About this Author

Danny W. Jarrett, Jackson Lewis, government entities lawyer, Native American tribal organizations attorney
Office Managing Principal

Danny Jarrett is Office Managing Principal of the Albuquerque, New Mexico, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is a New Mexico native and has been certified as a specialist in labor and employment law by the New Mexico Supreme Board of Legal Specialization since August of 2008.

Mr. Jarrett’s legal practice focuses on counseling and representing employers, government entities and Native American tribal organizations regarding labor and employment disputes. His experience involves Title VII and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act,...

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Tara Burke Employment lawyer Jackson Lewis
Of Counsel

Tara K. Burke is Of Counsel in the Cincinnati, Ohio, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. She works with employers to build positive and inclusive workplaces and reduce legal risk through policy development, training, and employment law counseling.  

Ms. Burke provides practical and legal advice to clients on employment law issues including harassment and discrimination prevention, diversity and inclusion, hiring and interviewing, internal investigations, disability accommodation and leave management, reductions in force, individual separations and employee relations issues. Ms. Burke works with clients, including multi-state employers, to identify the trends in workplace law and stay in compliance with the rapidly changing state-by-state legal landscape. Ms. Burke helps clients of all sizes and in all industries, create, revise and implement workplace policies and procedures including employee handbooks. She also routinely conducts workplace training for leadership, human resources, managers and employees on numerous topics including strong management practices that reduce legal risk and build effective teams, preventing sexual harassment by supporting respectful and positive workplaces, achieving winning results through diversity and inclusion, conducting investigations, and employee accommodations and leaves of absence.

Ms. Burke has defended employers in employment-related litigation and administrative proceedings. 

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