Beginning July 1, 2022, private New Mexico employers who employ at least one employee at any time, including full-time, part-time, seasonal, and temporary employees will be required to provide up to 64 hours of paid leave annually for specific reasons relating to the health or safety of employees or their family members under New Mexico’s Healthy Workplaces Act (HWA) (HB 20).
Under the Act, employees accrue one hour of earned sick leave for every 30 hours worked and up to a total of 64 hours per 12 months, unless the employer chooses to offer a more generous amount of leave. Employers may choose both:
- How to define the 12-month period (calendar year, fixed 12-months like a fiscal year, 12-months from when the employee first uses it, or a rolling 12-months); and
- To frontload the full 64 hours of earned sick leave each January 1, or a prorated portion of it, depending upon the employee’s hire date, rather than use an accrual method.
Accrued, unused earned sick leave also carries over from year to year subject to the 64-hour usage cap. This year-to-year period must coincide with the employer’s defined 12-month period. Employees may use earned sick leave to tend to their own or a family member’s:
- Illness, injury, or health condition (health condition) or its care or treatment;
- Medical diagnosis of a health condition;
- Preventative medical care; or
- Treatment, counseling, relocation, or legal preparation when they are a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking.
Employees may also use HWA leave for meetings at their child’s school or place of care related to the child’s health or disability. However, employees do not have a right to a payout of accrued, unused earned sick leave upon separation of employment.
The Act also includes:
- Protections for the employee’s accrued, unused earned sick leave when they are transferred but remain with the same employer (entitled to use it and keep all rights to it) or are terminated but get rehired within 12 months (accrued, unused earned sick leave is reinstated upon rehire);
- A ban on employers requiring employees to find replacement workers as a condition to taking leave or requiring employees to use other paid leave before they use HWA sick leave;
- Terms regarding incremental use. Earned sick leave may be used in hourly increments or the smallest increment that the employer’s payroll system uses to account for absences (or use of other time), whichever is smaller; and
- Notice, posting, documentation, and recordkeeping requirements, along with antiretaliation provisions, employer liability, and how HWA will be enforced.
Employers with policies providing equivalent leave benefits as those required by the law will be deemed in compliance.
Penalties for employer violations of the paid leave law include damages, back pay, reinstatement and attorney’s fees, among others.