“Practicable”or “Practical” Notice for Unforeseeable Use of Paid Sick Leave

Every paid sick leave requires an employee to provide advance notice of the need to use PSL for a foreseeable reason. If the need for leave is unforeseeable, most PSL laws require the employee to notify the employer as soon as “practicable.”

When I read “practicable,” I question, even anguish over, whether the drafters should have used “practical” instead. Words matter, especially in the legal profession, and using the precise word is important. As I researched this issue, I learned that I was not the first to be stressed over this issue.

There is a strong argument that “practicable” and “practical” are synonyms and that the legislative drafters could have used either word appropriately. See here and here. To accept this argument means that the legislators merely chose the less common, lawyerly-sounding word that few understand and even fewer use regularly in their vocabulary rather than a very common word which is in everyone’s vocabulary. That would not be surprising.

But there is also a strong argument that there is a difference between the two words. Merriam Webster suggests that “practicable” means feasible while “practical” means useful. Hardly synonyms. One site offers these sentences to illustrate the difference: “This is a practical tool. The backup plan was practicable.” Another suggests that “practicable only applies to plans or actions” while “practical” is more general.  Yet another suggests that “practical” means reasonable or sensible.

keep-calm-so-far-as-reasonably-practicable

No question there is considerable overlap between the two words. However, the “anti”versions of them make clear, at least to the author, that there is a difference. Something that is “impracticable” is impossible to carry out. Something “impractical” is not necessarily impossible to carry out, but it may be inefficient or unreasonable or not sensible to do so.

Give one to the PSL drafters. “Practicable” seems to be the right choice. No need to stress over it anymore.