Yesterday, several House Democrats announced the introduction of the Protected Time Off (PTO) Act to guarantee all full-time workers access to at least ten paid days off from work each year. U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (VT), who proposed a 32-hour workweek last week, is introducing companion legislation in the Senate.

According to a press release from U.S. Representatives Seth Magaziner (RI-02), the proposal ensures that full-time employees will earn no less than two weeks of paid annual leave per year, in addition to any employer-provided or legally required paid sick or family medical leave, to be used for any reason at their standard pay rate. Employers may not interfere with or discriminate against workers who seek to take annual paid time off.

Let's answer a few additional questions about the PRO Act.

Will it cover your business if it becomes law?

Yes, it will.

The PRO Act defines covers all employers that employ at least one employee for each working day during each of 20 or more calendar workweeks in the current or preceding year.

How does paid annual leave accrue?

As soon as employment begins, employers must provide each employee not less than 1 hour of paid annual leave for every 25 hours worked, up to 80 total hours. Employees can start using it beginning on the 60th day after employment begins.

Can employees use this leave for any reason?

Yes, and employers cannot require employees to give a reason. But, generally employees must provide two weeks' notice, except in emergencies. An employer may place limited, reasonable restrictions regarding the scheduling of paid annual leave and may reject a scheduling request for such leave for a bona fide business reason, so long as the employer provides other reasonable alternative times for the employee to schedule such leave.

What is the rate of compensation?

The same rate at which the employee would have been paid had their not used leave.

Does unused leave carryover from year to year?

Employees can carryover up to 40 hours, and employees can cash out unused paid annual leave at separation of employement.

What happens if an emloyer violates the law?

Employers may be responsible for lost wages, interest, liquidated damages (equal to the lost wages), reasomable attorney's fees and costs. This doesn't sound like much. But a collective/class action could make this an appealling lawsuit for a plaintiff's lawyer to assert.

So what do you think? Should the U.S. join many European counties in requiring mandatory paid time off? Or is this better left for businesses and market forces to dictate whether companies should provide this benefit to workers?

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