To Your Health: California Enacts Broad Sick Leave Law

On September 10, 2014, Governor Brown signed into law the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (AB 1522), making California only the second state to require paid sick leave.  In a press release, the Governor’s office stated that this bill will provide sick leave to about 40 percent of California’s workforce, or 6.5 million workers, who do not currently receive this benefit.

Under the new law, which takes effect July 1, 2015, an employee who works in California for 30 or more days within a year from the start of their employment is eligible for up to 3 days of paid sick leave per year.  Paid sick days will accrue at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, and employees will be eligible to use accrued sick days beginning on the 90th day of employment.  Employees exempt from overtime requirements as administrative, executive, or professional employees are deemed to work 40 hours per workweek for the purposes of the law, unless the employee’s normal workweek is less than 40 hours in which case the employee would accrue paid sick days based upon his/her normal workweek.  Thus, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees who were not previously eligible for paid sick leave under their employers’ policies may now be entitled to this benefit.  The paid sick days must be paid at the same wage rate as the employee normally earns during regular work hours.

Employers must allow employees to use paid sick days for the following purposes:

(1) Diagnosis, care, or treatment of an existing health condition of, or preventative care for, an employee or an employee’s family member.

For the purposes of the statute, “family member” includes a biological, adopted, or foster child, legal ward, or a child to whom the employee stands in loco parentis; a biological, adopted, or foster parent, stepparent, or legal guardian of an employee or the employee’s spouse or registered domestic partner, or a person who stood in loco parentis when the employee was a minor child; a spouse; a registered domestic partner; a grandparent; a grandchild; and a sibling.

(2) For an employee who is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, the purposes described in Section 230(c) and 230.1(a) of the California Labor Code.

These statutes include, for example, time off to seek a restraining order to help ensure the health, safety, or welfare of the victim or his or her child; to seek medical attention for injuries caused by, or to seek psychological counseling related to an experience of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking; or to obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, program, or rape crisis center as a result of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking; among other things.

Although accrued paid sick days must carry over to the following year, employers may limit employees’ use of paid sick days to 24 hours, or 3 days, in each year of employment, and employers are not required to pay out unused, accrued sick days upon termination.  Also, no accrual or carry over is required if employees receive the full amount of leave at the beginning of each year.

Employers must provide employees with written notice of the amount of paid sick leave available, either on the employee’s itemized wage statement or in a separate writing provided on the designated pay date with the employee’s payment of wages.  Employers must display a poster in a conspicuous location with specific information about employees’ paid sick leave entitlement.  Employers are also required to provide employees with information about their paid sick leave entitlement in writing upon hire.

Employers with paid sick leave policies that provide the same or greater benefits (and which can be used for the same purposes and under the same conditions) than those required by the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 need not provide additional paid sick time benefits.

The law does not apply to employees covered by collective bargaining agreements, certain in-home service providers, and individuals employed by an air carrier as a flight deck or cabin crew member.

For the full text of the bill, please click here.