California Fills Prescription for Sick Workers

The Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (AB 1522), which requires California employers, regardless of size,  to provide paid sick leave to employees beginning July 1, 2015, was signed into law by Governor Brown on September 10, 2014.   California will be only the second state in the country to require paid sick leave for employees of private companies.  In California, this state-wide law follows in the footsteps of the San Francisco Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, implemented in 2007, and the Earned Sick Leave and Minimum Wage Ordinance, recently passed by the San Diego City Council (set to become effective April 1, 2015).  While there are many similarities between the state and local laws, there are also some significant differences.  As a result, even those employers who are currently in compliance with the San Francisco law should, before July 1, 2015, carefully examine their current policies and practices to ensure compliance with the new state requirements.

The Legislature’s stated purpose of the law is to allow workers, particularly those in low paying jobs, a limited amount of paid time off to attend to their own health or the health care of certain family members.  The Legislature believes that providing paid sick days will help reduce the number of employees who come to work ill, thereby ensuring a healthier and more productive workforce.

Specifically, the Act provides that any employee who works in California on or after the effective date of this law (July 1, 2015) for 30 days or more within a given year will be entitled to earn paid sick days.  These paid sick days must accrue at a rate of no less than one hour for every 30 hours worked. Employers may elect to increase the minimum hour accrual rate, if they so desire.  While many employers already provide some amount of paid sick leave or PTO benefit to regular full time employees, under this law, part time and temporary employees who work a minimum of 30 days will also be entitled to accrue paid sick leave at the rate of 1 hour per 30 hours worked.   Employers whose paid time off benefits are more restrictive than the requirements of the new law will need to modify their paid sick leave policies accordingly. Other key provisions of the Act include the following:

  • Employees are able to use their paid sick days beginning on the 90th day of employment.
  • Employers may limit an employee’s use of paid sick days to 24 hours or 3 days in each year of employment, or calendar year, or other 12 month period.
  • Use of paid sick time shall be available for diagnosis, care, or treatment of an existing health condition or for preventative care of an employee or an employee’s family member (including employee’s child, parent, spouse, registered domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild or sibling).
  • An employee who is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking may use paid sick leave when taking time off work to seek medical attention, legal relief, safety planning or other purposes permitted by Labor Code  sections 203 (c) and 230.1 (a).
  • The employer must allow carry-over of accrued but unused paid sick days, but such carry over need not exceed 48 hours or 6 days, provided the employees’ rights to accrue and use sick leave under the Act are not otherwise impaired.
  • Accrued but unused paid sick days need not be paid out upon termination of employment.
  • Employees covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement which expressly provides for paid sick days or a paid leave policy may be excluded from coverage of the Act.  Similarly, exclusions are available for employees in the construction industry and those employed by an air carrier as a flight deck or cabin crew member, provided certain criteria are satisfied.
  • Employers may not discriminate or retaliate against an employee for requesting or using paid sick days.
  • The Act authorizes the Labor Commissioner to impose administrative fines for violations, and authorizes the Attorney General to recover specified civil penalties against offenders.
  • The Act imposes posting, notice, and record-keeping obligations on employers.

As noted above, this new state law does not become effective until July 1, 2015, so employers will have plenty of time to review and update their policies and procedures.  If you have any specific questions about this new development in employment law, or require assistance in updating your policies, please contact your employment law counsel at Sacks, Ricketts and Case.

For More information:

Hope Case
Northern California
(650) 494-4950

Nancy Kawano
Southern California
(858) 381-4890