WHAT’S THERE TO KNOW ABOUT PAID SICK LEAVE?
Fall is here, even if it doesn’t feel like it in sunny Southern California. With the constant changes in weather and temperature, as well as the start of flu season, it’s important to know the new changes to paid sick leave. Los Angeles and San Diego are the two newest cities to revamp local ordinances regarding paid sick leave, joining Santa Monica, San Francisco, Oakland, and Emeryville. Where there are both local and state ordinances in place, whichever is more generous toward the employee must be provided by the employer. These new changes come in the footsteps of legislation earlier this year to raise minimum wage and update paid family leave benefits.
Currently, California state law regarding paid sick leave (the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, or HWHFA) requires employers to provide paid sick leave for employees who work in California for 30 or more days within a year from their start date. This applies to part-time, full-time, and even temporary employees. There are two methods of earning sick pay:
- Accrual method: One hour of sick pay is earned every 30 hours worked. This means that for every 40 hours worked, an employee accrues 1.33 hours of sick pay.
- Under this method, unused sick leave hours roll over to the next year, but employers may limit the accrual to 48 hours (6 days) a year
- Employers may also limit the use of paid sick leave to 24 hours (3 days) a year
- Front-loading method: 24 hours (3 days) of sick pay is allocated at the start of each calendar year, 12 months, or anniversary date of employment.
- Under this method, unused hours don’t get rolled over to the next year
- Employers are not required to track accrual of paid sick leave, but must track and display the usage of paid sick leave on wage statements or other written documents
Employers don’t have to pay for any unused sick days if the employee is terminated, resigns, or retires, but the sick days are reinstated if the employee is hired again within a year. Now let’s see how this compares to the new laws in Los Angeles and San Diego.
LOS ANGELES ORDINANCE FOR PAID SICK LEAVE:
While the city ordinance is very similar to the state law, there are some departures. For one, Los Angeles’ ordinance allows for higher limits. This means employers can limit use of sick pay at 48 hours (6 days) a year (instead of the state’s 24 hours/3 days), and stop accrued hours at 72 hours (9 days) a year (instead of the state’s 48 hours/6 days). However, employers may also request for a doctor’s note as reasonable proof of their absence, which the state law does not explicitly state. Los Angeles’ ordinance also allows sick leave to be used not only for people who are related by blood, but close enough to the employee that their relationship would be considered a familial one, while the state only allows for family members.
SAN DIEGO ORDINANCE FOR PAID SICK LEAVE:
San Diego’s city ordinance only allows for the accrual method, with any unused hours being rolled over to the next year. There is no limit on accrued hours, but employers can limit employees to use 40 hours (5 days) a year. While employees may only use sick hours on themselves or family members, they are able to use their hours when their work, child’s school, or child’s care provider is closed due to a public health emergency. If employees must take more than three consecutive days off, employers may ask for documentation. Lastly, employees who are rehired after being terminated, resigning, or retiring within six months can get their hours reinstated, which is a shorter grace period than the state’s law of one year.
TAKEAWAY REGARDING PAID SICK LEAVE THIS SEASON:
It is important to be aware of any new local ordinances wherever your business is located. Remember to check with your employment law attorney to make sure you’re following all the new California regulations so that you don’t catch something worse than the flu this year!