California Sick Leave

10/18/2019 04:10 PM


Employers must provide employees who work 30 or more days in California per year, whether full-time, part-time, or temporary, with paid sick leave based upon the number of hours worked. Certain categories of employees are exempted from coverage, including employees with a collective bargaining agreement (provided that the agreement meets certain specifications), in-home support service providers, and certain air carrier and flight employees. There is no exception for small employers.

Employees will accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Exempt employees will be presumed to work 40 hours per week unless they are regularly scheduled to work fewer hours, in which case accrual will be based on their usual schedule. Accrual will begin immediately upon employment. Employers may cap accrual at 48 hours. Unused time will carry over up to the accrual limit. 

Employers may choose to use a lump sum method of providing sick leave by granting each employee 24 hours or three days of paid leave (whichever is greater) at the beginning of each benefit year. A benefit year may be any regular consecutive 12-month period. If a lump sum method is used unused time may be forfeit at the end of a benefit year rather than carried over.

Use of Leave
Employers may cap use of leave at 24 hours per year. Employers may prevent employees from using any time accrued until their 90th day of employment. Employers must allow employees to use sick leave in increments as small as two hours. 

Employers cannot require employees to find their own replacement worker as a condition of taking sick time.

Employees may use sick leave for the following reasons:

  • Obtaining preventative care or diagnosis or for treatment of an existing health condition of the employee or the employee's family member.
  • Other medical reasons of the employee, such as pregnancy or obtaining a physical examination.
  • Providing care or assistance to a family member with an illness, injury, or medical condition, including assistance in obtaining professional diagnosis or treatment of a medical condition.
  • When the employee or their family member is obtaining: 
    • Medical attention needed to recover from physical or psychological injury or disability caused by domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking;
    • Services from a victim services organization;
    • Psychological or other counseling;
    • Relocation due to the domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking; or
    • Legal services, including preparing for or participating in any civil or criminal legal proceeding related to or resulting from the domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

Family members include:

  • Children, whether biological, adopted, step, foster, the child of a domestic partner or a child for whom the employee stands in loco parentis; 
  • Parents, whether biological, adopted, step, foster, in-law; a legal guardian; or someone stood in loco parentis when the employee was a minor; 
  • Grandparents;
  • Grandchildren;
  • Siblings, whether biological, adopted, step, or foster; 
  • Legal guardians and wards;
  • Spouses.

When sick leave is used, it must be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay. Employees need not be compensated for unused sick leave at the end of employment. 

Employees rehired within one year of termination must have any previously accrued but unused sick leave reinstated, unless it was paid out upon termination. The rehired employee is not be subject to the waiting period and their time must be made available for use immediately.

Employers must give a written notice of the right to sick leave at the time of hire. This notice must detail employees’ rights in accruing, requesting and using paid sick leave without fear of retaliation or termination as well as their right to file complaints and participate in investigations of the employer’s non-compliance without fear of negative actions against them. Employers must display a poster with similar information in a common area accessed by employees. A written accounting of each employee’s available sick leave must be distributed to the employee every pay day. If an employer provides unlimited paid sick leave or unlimited paid time off, the employer may note “unlimited” on the employee’s itemized wage statement.

Employers must document each employee’s accrual and usage of paid sick leave and must retain the records for at least three years. Employers who violate this new law may be liable for civil penalties to the employee as well as the attorney fees and costs of the employee and the Labor Commission.

Infringement and Retaliation
It is unlawful for an employer or any other person to deny, interfere with, or fail to pay for sick time an employee has the statutory right to use. Employers also must not implement or enforce an absence control policy that has the intent or effect of making the use of sick time afforded by this law a cause for discipline. Retaliation or discrimination with respect to terms and conditions of employment because an employee inquires about, requests, or uses sick time, or initiates or participates in any investigation related to this statute is unlawful.

Several municipalities have implemented separate paid sick leave regulations, which you can find using the search bar.

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