California Becomes Second State to Enact Sick Leave Law


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On September 10, 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Family Act of 2014 (A.B. 1522), becoming the second state after Connecticut and a handful of municipalities (New York City, San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, Newark and Jersey City, New Jersey and Eugene, Oregon) which provides three days paid sick leave for employees, with only unionized workers, home health care providers and airline flight crews exempted from the mandate. The law is effective as of July 1, 2015, and notably applies to employers of all sizes and to California employees of companies based in other states.

Under the new law, all employees, full and part time, will earn paid sick leave at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked and can begin using the accrued time after 90 days of employment. Employers may cap accrual of paid sick leave at six days and limit the employee’s use of paid sick days to three days per year, with the remaining time carrying over from year to year.

Employees may use their sick leave for their own health condition, caring for a family member, or if they are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Existing California law already mandates that employers who provide paid sick leave allow their employees to use half of their yearly allotment for “kin care” (which includes care of a sick child, parent, spouse or registered domestic partner). The new law expands the definition of “family” to include grandparents, grandchildren and siblings.

Employers that already provide paid sick leave, or paid time off policies that can be used for sick leave, need not provide additional leave under the new law if their plans provide at least the same amount of leave and under the same or more favorable conditions as provided for under the new law. Notably, employers are still subject to more favorable local ordinances for paid sick leave (e.g. San Francisco) and must continue to comply with such ordinances.

The new law also imposes certain posting and recordkeeping requirements on covered employers. Employers are required to display posters telling employees of their right to paid sick days and informing them that retaliation for requesting or using paid sick days is illegal. Additionally, employers must also provide written notice of the amount of sick time accrued after each pay period to all employees, either in the employee’s itemized wage statement or in a separate document.

Meanwhile, the law requires the employers to maintain records reflecting hours worked and sick leave accrued for at least three years.

What you need to do:

Review your sick and paid leave policies. Employers that fall under the law’s requirements who do not already grant paid sick leave to their California employees should revise your policies accordingly and notify your employees of the new law. Employers who already comply with the law may need to comply with additional recordkeeping, notice and posting requirements. As always, consult with outside counsel before any disciplinary action is taken against employees taking sick leave.

Hilary Atkins
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Posted In: Legal

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