New Law Makes Paid Sick Leave Mandatory in California

Although many employers make paid sick leave available to employees, such paid time off has not been legally required in California.  However, with the passage of the “Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014,” California will become the second state in the nation to require paid sick leave. The Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 will go into effect July 1, 2015.

The Act provides that, with few exceptions reserved for employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement, providers of in-home supportive services, and certain individuals employed by air carriers, employees who work in California for 30 or more days within a year are entitled to accrue paid sick days at a rate of at least one hour for every 30 hours worked.  Alternatively, employers may avoid keeping track of sick leave accrual but still comply with the law by affording employees 3 days or 24 hours of paid sick leave to use as of their date of hire or July 1, 2015, whichever is later.  Under either option, employers may prohibit employees from using accrued sick days until their 90th day of employment.

Under the law, employees must be allowed to take sick days off for their own health condition or preventive care or to care for their child, parent, spouse, registered domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling, among certain other statutorily specified individuals.  Employees who are victims of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault may also utilize paid sick days under the Act to take time off from work to obtain a restraining order or other services available to such victims.

Employees taking paid sick time off are entitled to be paid sick time at their regular rate of pay.  For employees who in the 90 days of employment before taking sick leave had different hourly pay rates, were paid by commission or piece rate, or who were nonexempt salaried employees, the rate of pay is calculated by dividing the employee’s total wages, not including overtime premium pay, by the employee’s total hours worked in the full pay periods of the prior 90 days of employment.

Employers may limit the use of paid sick days to 24 hours or 3 days per year of employment.  Unlike accrued, unused vacation, which must be paid out at the time of termination, the new law does not require employers to pay employees for any accrued, unused sick days on their last day of work.

The Act imposes various notice and record-keeping requirements and requires employers to provide employees information regarding their accrued sick leave on each payday, either on an itemized wage statement or in a separate writing.

The Act prohibits discrimination, retaliation, or any other adverse treatment toward employees who use accrued sick days or otherwise attempt to exercise their rights under the Act.

The Act authorizes the Labor Commissioner and Attorney General to bring a civil action to enforce the provisions of the Act.  The Act permits the recovery of unpaid sick days, back pay, penalties, injunctive relief, attorney’s fees and costs, as well as with other enumerated damages.

The full text of the Act is available here.  The Press Release issued by Governor Brown’s office discussing the Act is available here.

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Bernstein & Friedland, P.C. is a boutique employment law firm in Los Angeles specializing in wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and unpaid wage and overtime matters.  Please visit our website at www.laemploymentcounsel.com to learn more about us.

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