As of today, most California employers are now required to provide their employees no less than 3 days or 24 hours—whichever is greater—of paid sick leave per year. An overview of the most important parts of the law is below:
1. Who Does the New Law Apply To: All California employers. The only employees exempt from the law are those covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement, certain providers of in‐home supportive services, employees of air carrier flight deck or cabin crew members, and certain government employees. This means that temporary, seasonal, and part‐time employees are protected by the law to the same extent as
2. How Much Paid Sick Leave Are Employees Entitled To: No less than 3 days or 24 hours, whichever is greater, of paid sick leave each year. To comply with this accrual provision, employers have several options:
- Accrual Method: As of each employee’s date of hire, allow the employee to accrue paid sick leave at a rate of no less than one hour of sick pay for every 30 hours worked (0.033 hours of sick leave accrued per every hour worked). Under this option, accrued, unused paid sick days must carry over from year to year of employment; however, employers may cap employees’ accrual of paid sick leave to 48 hours or 6 days, whichever is greater, at which point accrual would cease until the employee used sick time to get below the cap. Under this option, employers may limit employees’ use of paid sick days to 24 hours or three days in each year of employment. Therefore, while an employee might accrue 6 days of sick leave in a year, he or she can only use 3 of those days each year, with the remaining days carrying over to the next year.
- Frontloading Method: Allow employees as of their date of hire to take 3 days or 24 hours, whichever is greater, of paid sick leave per year of employment, per calendar year, or per some other 12‐month basis. With this option, keeping track of accrued hours is not necessary and there is no need to allow accrued, unused paid sick days to carry over from year to year because the full amount of paid sick time is given to the employee upfront.
- Alternative Accrual: Allow employees to accrue paid sick leave at a rate different from 1 hour for every 30 hours worked as long as the accrual is on a regular basis so that an employee has no less than 24 hours of accrued sick leave by the 120th calendar day of employment, each calendar year, or in each 12‐month period.
- Unlimited Sick Leave: Allow employees to take an unlimited amount of paid sick leave.
3. Notice & Posting Requirements Effective January 1, 2015: The law requires employers to give notice to employees about the contours of the law by posting in a space accessible to employees information about the law. The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement has come out with a template poster employers may use, available here, to comply with this requirement.
In addition, all employees must be provided with a new Labor Code Section 2810.5 Notice to Employee filled out by the employer and signed by the employee within seven days of hire or within seven days of the employer making changes to any of the information on that notice (including implementing policies regarding the sick leave law). That notice is available here.
4. Limits Employers May Place on Employee Use and Accrual of Paid Sick Leave
- Employers may prohibit employees from using accrued paid sick days until their 90th day of employment.
- Employees should be allowed to determine how much paid sick leave they need to use, but employers may set reasonable minimum increments not to exceed two hours for the use of paid sick leave.
5. Limits on Employers
- Employers can’t require as a condition of using paid sick days that the employee search for or find a replacement worker to cover the days the employee needs to miss for sick leave purposes.
- Employers can’t deny employees the right to use accrued sick days, discharge, threaten to discharge, demote, suspend or in any manner discriminate against employees for (1) using or attempting to use accrued sick days, (2) filing a complaint with the Labor Commissioner alleging a violation of the sick leave law, (3) cooperating in an investigation of an employer alleged to have violated the law, or (4) opposing any policy or practice that is prohibited by the law.
6. Rate of Pay Applicable to Sick Leave Taken: Employees taking paid sick time off are entitled to be paid sick time at their regular rate of pay.For exempt employees, sick leave is to be paid in the same manner as the employer calculates wages for other forms of paid leave time (e.g., vacation).
7. When Must the Sick Time Be Paid: No later than the payday for the next regular payroll period after the sick leave was taken.
8. For What Purposes May Paid Sick Leave Be Taken
- The diagnosis, care, or treatment of an existing health condition of, or preventive care for, an employee or an employee’s family member. (“Family member” is defined as: spouse; registered domestic partner; grandparent; grandchild; sibling; child, stepchild, or foster child; and parent, stepparent, or foster parent of the employee or the employee’s spouse or domestic partner).
- Employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
9. Additional Notice and Record-Keeping Requirements
- Employers must provide employees notice of the amount of paid sick leave available either on the employees’ paystubs or in a separate writing provided on the designated pay date. If an employer provides unlimited paid sick leave, the employer can indicate on the paystub or separate writing “unlimited.”
- Employers must keep for at least three years records documenting the hours worked and paid sick days accrued and used by employees. The law provides that if employers don’t maintain adequate records, it will be presumed that the employee is entitled to the maximum number of hours accruable.
10. Accrued, Unused Sick Days At Termination: Unlike accrued, unused vacation, which does need to be paid out at termination, accrued, unused sick leave benefits are not required to be paid out at termination.
11. Lending Paid Sick Days to Employees in Advance of Accrual: An employer can lend paid sick days to an employee in advance of accrual at the employer’s discretion and with proper documentation.
For more information on California’s new sick leave law, the Labor Commissioner has prepared Frequently Asked Questions, available here. If you have any further questions or would like assistance updating your employee handbooks or other personnel-documents to track the requirements of this new law, please contact Diana Friedland at (818) 817-7570.
The above summary has been prepared for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. If you have any questions regarding your employee handbook, or if you are looking to have an employee handbook prepared for your business or organization, please contact Bernstein & Friedland, P.C. attorney Diana Friedland at (818) 817-7570.
Bernstein & Friedland, P.C. is a boutique employment law firm in Los Angeles specializing in wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and unpaid wage and overtime matters. Please visit our website at www.laemploymentcounsel.com to learn more about us.