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Home CA Labor Law Understanding California’s Mandatory Paid Sick Leave Law

Understanding California’s Mandatory Paid Sick Leave Law

With the passing of the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, all California employers must provide paid sick leave for their employees. Understanding which employers are required to provide the mandatory sick leave, which employees are entitled to the benefits and how to calculate the leave are just the starting point of what each employer needs to understand.

Which Employers Must Provide Paid Sick Leave?

The answer is short and simple. The law requires that ALL employers provide paid sick leave. There is no small employer carve out or exception. Whether you have one employee or thousands of employees, you must provide paid sick leave. Additionally, the law applies to all types of companies; public and private; for profit and non-profit.

Which Employers Are Entitled to the Paid Sick Leave Benefits?

All employees who, on or after July 1, 2015, have worked in California for the same employer for 30 or more days within a year from the commencement of employment will be entitled to paid sick leave. The law also does not differentiate between full-time, part time, exempt or non-exempt. All employees in these categories are eligible for paid sick leave. In fact, temporary, seasonal and even out-of-state employees can be covered too, if they spend enough time working for your business here in California.

Now there are a few exceptions to the rule. The following five groups may be exempt from the mandatory sick leave

  • Employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement that provides for sick leave, has binding arbitration and meets other requirements, including a regular hourly rate of pay of not less than 30 percent more than the state minimum wage rate
  • Construction employees under a collective bargaining agreement
  • Providers of publicly funded in-home supportive services under certain sections of the Welfare and Institutions Code.
  • Certain air carrier employees who are provided time off that is equal to what is provided under the new law
  • Specified public retired annuitants

If you think you meet one of the exceptions consult your Human Resource Specialist or legal counsel before deciding not to comply with the paid sick leave law.

As an Employer, how do I calculate sick leave for my employees?

The act provides employers several ways to manage the mandatory sick leave requirements. Since we view four out of the five options to be quite complicated and very business specific, we are only going to discuss the first option, known as the Statutory Mandated Accrual Method. Under this method, an employee earns one hour of sick time for every thirty hours worked. Both regular time and overtime count toward accrual and the employee begins accruing as soon as they are eligible.

The other four calculations options are:

  • An optional accrual method that provides no less than 24 hours by the 90th day of work.
  • An alternative accrual method for new hires.
  • A pre-existing employer policy (a policy in effect prior to January 1, 2015).
  • A lump-sum approach to the sick leave.

Again, these four options are very business specific and employers should conduct their due diligence before making a decision on anything other than the Statutory Mandated Accrual Method.

As an Employer, can I be penalized if we do not provide paid sick leave?

Yes, yes and yes! The Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act contains various stiff fines and penalties for not providing sick days — ranging from $50 to $4,000 aggregate — and allows for a civil action by the state. In addition to administrative penalties, the Labor Commissioner can also order reinstatement, back-pay, and the payment of sick days unlawfully withheld.

Now is the time to start reviewing your sick leave policies and ensure you are meeting the minimum mandatory requirements. Consider starting a reporting/compliance mechanism to safeguard your business and keep your employees’ documentation accurate and timely. Highly accurate recordkeeping is the best defense in a labor audit.

Next steps

If you have not instituted your mandatory sick leave policy, or you have not set up your reporting and compliance mechanisms, now is the time to get started. To help you start the process, we have prepared a free Paid Sick Leave Checklist for you to download and use a tool in your business.

Keep in mind, the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 is a complicated law full of ambiguity. Always consult your HR Specialist or an attorney when evaluating how the law impacts your business.



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