New Datasets Show Opportunities Exist for States to Bolster Fair Hiring Protections and Workers Rights with Earned Sick Leave and Ban the Box Laws


(Washington DC – January 28, 2021) — Two new datasets published to today offer a comprehensive look at state laws that address earned sick leave laws and Ban the Box policies. These datasets provide a snapshot of how earned sick leave, also known as paid sick leave, and ban the box policies differ between states, how such policies help promote the well-being of state residents, and opportunities for states to adopt or expand such regulations.

“States have a critical role to play in promoting the health and well-being of their residents. These data provide a clear picture that opportunities exist nationwide for states to foster equitable economies in which job seekers are evaluated on their merits and workers have access to paid leave benefits to care for themselves and loved ones,” Adam Lustig, MS, Senior Policy Development Manager and Co-Principal Investigator of the PHACCS initiative.

Earned Sick Leave

As of January 1, 2021, 15 states and the District of Columbia have an earned sick leave law that requires employers of varying sizes to provide paid time away to address medical needs for themselves or their families as a benefit to their employees. Across states, eligibility requirements, employer size, how and when an employee may use their time, and rate of leave accrual of the laws vary:

  • All 16 jurisdictions allow for earned sick leave to be used to care for a family member.
  • Geographically, earned sick leave laws are almost exclusively in place in the northeast and on the west coast, with Colorado, Arizona, and Michigan being exceptions.
  • Of the 16 jurisdictions that have earned sick leave laws, just six require employers of all sizes to provide this benefit.
  • Only two states, New York and Colorado, allow employees to use earned leave immediately upon accrual.
  • Eight states provide the most generous accrual of earned sick leave, enabling workers to earn one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked.
  • Washington is the only state that does not specify a limit on the amount of earned sick leave that can be accrued within one year.

Ban the Box

As of January 1, 2021, 36 states and the District of Columbia have a Ban the Box policy that prevents an employer from asking about a potential employee’s criminal history until after fairly considering the applicant’s relevant qualifications. These laws vary greatly in who they apply to, and their enforcement mechanisms:

  • Thirty-six jurisdictions have Ban the Box policies that regulate public employers. However, significant gaps remain, as only three of these jurisdictions apply this protection to government contractors.
  • Only 15 of the 37 jurisdictions with Ban the Box policies regulate private employers, leaving a significant portion of the workforce lacking access to this important fair hiring practice.
  • The most common private positions exempt from Ban the Box policies include: working with children, working with vulnerable adults, law enforcement, and positions where a criminal history check is required by law.

“We have seen a growing body of evidence supporting that earned sick leave laws and Ban the Box policies are important legal approaches to ensuring equity in hiring in the United States,” said Lindsay K. Cloud, JD, Director of the Center’s Policy Surveillance Program. “These datasets are an invaluable resource as we continue to seek to better understand the impact of employer-provided protections and fair chance hiring practices on health, and particularly on the social determinants of health amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The Promoting Health and Cost Control in States initiative’s legal data resources are a collaboration of the Temple University Center for Public Health Law Research with Trust for America’s Health, and support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The earned sick leave and Ban the Box datasets are the fifth and sixth in a series of datasets on laws and policies that can support cost-savings for states and promote health and well-being.

Access the datasets on



Trust for America’s Health is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes optimal health for every person and community and makes the prevention of illness and injury a national priority.  Learn more at

The Center for Public Health Law Research at the Temple University Beasley School of Law supports the widespread adoption of scientific tools and methods for mapping and evaluating the impact of law on health. Learn more at