2022 is almost upon us. We are almost 2 years into the COVID-19 pandemic and smack in the middle of cold and flu season. Earlier in the pandemic, federal and California laws provided emergency paid sick leave that had the effect of expanding California workers’ sick leave. Those have all expired. So what protections do employees still have if they are affected?
It’s time to brush up on Paid Sick Leave Rights!
The State of California and many municipalities in California mandate paid sick leave – and these laws permit paid time off for an employee (or relative) who is ill with COVID-19. Generally, the covered family members for whom an employee can take time off to care for are: Children, parents, spouse or registered domestic partner, grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings. A few cities have laws that include a designated person as a covered family member if the employee does not have a spouse or registered domestic partner.
In California, paid sick time can be used for “preventive care” for an employee or a family member, and this includes the need to self-isolate as a result of potential exposure to COVID-19. If civil authorities recommend quarantining due to potential exposure, paid sick time may be used. There could be other situations, such as needing time off to attend a vaccine appointment or get COVID testing, where an employee may exercise their right to take paid sick leave, or an employer may allow paid sick leave for preventative care.1
Employers can generally require employees to provide written verification from a medical provider if paid sick leave is needed for more than three days. However, the better practice these days for employers is to be flexible about the timing and nature of the medical documentation, given that medical providers have been overwhelmed during the pandemic.
If you believe your rights have been violated, contact us today!
The practical aspects of COVID-19 leave and getting paid during leave are complex and evolving. Your options will depend on your individualized circumstances, such as where in California you live, your employer policies, and the size of your workplace.
Please be aware that Paid Sick Leave and job-protected leave are two distinct sets of laws. For example, California enacted a new protection after the pandemic for caregivers of children, where employees at worksites containing at least 25 employees can take job-protected leave to deal with a child care of school emergency, including COVID-19 closures. This allows up to 40 hours of job-protected leave, but how much of it can be paid depends on the employee’s accrued paid sick leave, paid vacation or PTO, and the availability of unemployment insurance.
We have collected more information on California state and city-level paid sick leave laws here.
Know Your Rights: California and Municipal Paid Sick Leave Laws
The “Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014” went into effect on July 1, 2015. The law mandates paid sick leave for employees who work in California for 30 or more days within a year from the beginning of employment. Employees, including part-time and temporary employees, earn one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked. The California law applies to all employers regardless of size.
The City of Berkeley enacted the Paid Sick Leave ordinance on Aug. 31, 2016. The law became operative on Oct. 1, 2017. It requires that all employees, including undocumented workers, earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Small business employers with fewer than 25 employees may cap an employee’s accrued paid sick leave at 48 hours and may cap the use of paid sick leave to 48 hours per year. Employers with 25 or more employees may cap an employee’s accrual of paid sick leave at 72 hours, but may not cap how much paid sick leave an employee uses in a calendar year.
Emeryville’s city ordinance requiring paid sick leave for most employees — full-time, part-time, and temporary — working within the city limits became effective on July 1, 2015. The municipal ordinance built upon the State of California’s requirement that employers provide paid sick leave to both full-time and part-time employees and exceeds state requirements.
Oakland, California Paid Sick Leave
Oakland’s paid sick leave law became effective March 2, 2015. Oakland employees — part-time, full-time, and temporary — accrue paid sick leave at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. Employees are eligible for paid sick leave if they perform at least two (2) hours of work in a particular week (also referred to as a “workweek”). Small businesses (fewer than 10 employees) may cap accrued sick leave at 40 hours, and all other businesses may cap accrued sick leave at 72 hours. Paid sick leave accruals carry over from year to year.
San Francisco, California Paid Sick Leave
Under the San Francisco Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, employers must provide paid sick leave to every employee who performs work either full or part-time in San Francisco. Paid sick time begins to accrue 90 days after the employee’s first day of work. Employees earn 1 hours of paid sick leave for every 30 hours of work. Sick leave is calculated in hour-unit increments, not in fractions of an hour. For employers with less than 10 employees, the required paid sick leave is capped at 40 hours. For employers with 10 or more employees, paid sick leave is capped at 72 hours.
Sick leave time earned does not expire and carries over to the next year. However, an employee can use as many sick leave hours in one year as they wish, so long as they have not reached the total cap.
Sick leave can be taken for illness, injury or to seek medical treatment or diagnosis for the employee, a family member or other designated person. If the employee does not have a spouse or registered domestic partner, they may designate one person. An employee may change the designated person once per year within 10 days from when sick leave begins to accrue.
The sick leave law for city of Los Angeles went into effect on July 1, 2016 for large employers — those with 26 or more employees — and on July 1, 2017 for smaller employers — those with 25 or fewer employees. The law allows employees to take up to 48 hours of paid sick time per year.
San Diego, California Paid Sick Leave
San Diego’s sick leave law went into effect on July 11, 2016. Its coverage is broader than the state law, notably in that it covers the need for time off due to public health emergencies resulting in the closure of the employee’s worksite, childcare provider, or child’s school.
Santa Monica’s paid sick leave law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2017. The beachfront community was quick to point out that its law was more generous than existing state law requirements on sick leave. Employees, which includes full-time, part-time, and temporary workers, accrue 1 hour for every 30 hours worked. Employees can earn up 40 hours for small businesses (25 or fewer employees), and 40 hours for larger businesses (those with 26 or more employees).