California Passes Paid Sick Leave Law

Beginning in 2015, California employers must provide paid sick leave to employees.

When California passed the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, it became the second state in the nation, following Connecticut, to require employers to provide paid sick leave to employees. However, while the Connecticut law only applies to large employers (those with 50 or more employees), the new California law will apply to all employers regardless of their size.

Beginning on July 1, 2015, California employers must have paid sick leave policies that comply with the following requirements:

  • Eligibility. Employees who work at least 30 days in a year are eligible to receive paid sick leave. Employees can begin using accrued sick leave once they have worked for an employer for 90 days. A few, specific types of employees are not eligible to receive paid sick leave, including certain employees covered by collective bargaining agreements, certain individuals employed by air carriers, and employees of the California In-Home Supportive Services Program.
  • Accrual of sick leave. Employees will accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Paid sick leave must carry over from year to year, but employers can place a cap on accrual of 48 hours (or six days).
  • Use of sick leave. Employers can limit an employee’s use of sick leave to 24 hours (or three days) per year. Employers can also require employees to take sick leave in at least two hour increments, but not more.
  • Lump-sum option. To avoid the administrative hassles of the accrual and carryover requirements, an employer can make three days of paid sick leave available to each employee at the beginning of each year.
  • Reasons for taking sick leave. California’s sick leave law allows employees to take sick leave for their own health condition or the health condition of a family member, including preventative treatment. “Family member” is defined broadly and includes a spouse, domestic partner, parent, child, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, and sibling. Employees may also take sick leave if they are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
  • No payout on separation. Employers do not need to pay out accrued sick leave when an employee leaves the company. However, if an employee leaves and is rehired within one year, accrued sick leave must be reinstated.
  • Posting requirements. A sick leave poster, available from the California Labor Commissioner, must be displayed at the workplace.
  • Notice and recordkeeping. The amount of available sick leave must be recorded on each paystub (or in some other written form on payday), and employers must keep records of sick leave accrual and use for three years.

Certain cities in California have their own paid sick leave requirements that provide additional benefits to employees. For example, in San Francisco, employees can accrue up to 72 hours of paid sick leave per year, and there is no cap on how much an employee can use. Several other cities are following this trend and passing their own sick leave laws. In general, employers must follow whichever rule is more generous to employees. And, of course, employers are free to create sick leave policies that are more generous than either law.

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