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California Joins Growing List of Jurisdictions Requiring Paid Sick Leave

September 17, 2014

On September 10, 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (A.B. 1522) into law, making California the second state, after Connecticut, to require private employers to provide paid sick leave to employees.  The law will apply to almost all California employees who work 30 or more days per year. 

Under the new law, effective July 1, 2015, California employees will accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 24 hours, or three paid sick days per year. Exempt employees will be deemed to work 40 hours per week for accrual purposes, unless their normal workweek schedule is less than 40 hours, in which case they will accrue paid sick leave based upon that normal workweek.  Employees will be permitted to use their accrued paid sick days beginning on their 90th day of employment.

Paid sick leave under this law can be used for the diagnosis, care, or treatment of an existing health condition, or for preventive care, of the employee or of the employee’s family member.  “Family member” includes:

Leave also can be used for an employee who is the victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. 

Most employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) will be excluded from coverage under the new law if the employees receive paid time off under the CBA.  Specifically, the law excludes any employee covered by a CBA if the CBA “expressly provides for the wages, hours of work, and working conditions of employees, and expressly provides for paid sick days or a paid leave or paid time off policy that permits the use of sick days for those employees, final and binding arbitration of disputes concerning the application of its paid sick days provisions, premium wage rates for all overtime hours worked, and regular hourly rate of pay of not less than 30 percent more than the state minimum wage rate.”  The new law also will not apply to employees of In-Home Supportive Services (a public-sector program), but private-sector home health workers are covered.   

Although employees will be allowed to carry over accrued, unused paid sick days to the following year, employers may limit an employee’s total use of paid sick leave to 24 hours, or three days, in each year of employment. No carryover is required if the full amount of sick leave (24 hours, or three days) is made available to employees at the beginning of each year, rather than accrued over time.

Where accrued, unused paid sick days are carried over, employers can limit an employee’s total accrual of paid sick leave to 48 hours, or six days per year.  An employee is allowed to accrue more sick time (48 hours) than an employee is allowed to use in one year (24 hours) so that if an employee needs to use sick leave in the beginning of the year, the employee will have accrued time available.  Any accrued time an employee uses which has been carried over from a previous year, however, will count toward the current year’s usage limit of 24 hours.

Employers will not be required to pay employees for accrued, unused sick leave upon termination of employment. If an employee is rehired by the same employer within 12 months of the employee’s termination, the employee’s previously accrued sick time must be reinstated.

Employers will be required to notify employees of their rights under this law at the time of hire and to post a notice (to be created by the Labor Commissioner) regarding the law.  Employers also will be required to provide employees with a written notice of the amount of paid sick leave the employee has available either in the employee’s itemized wage statement or in a separate writing on each pay date.

Employers with existing policies that provide at least three paid sick days per year can keep their existing policies and do not need to provide any additional paid sick leave as long as the existing policy satisfies the accrual, carryover, and use requirements of the new law.

Please do not hesitate to contact any of our attorneys if you have any questions regarding this new California law.