California’s new paid sick leave law, the Health Workplaces, Healthy Family Act of 2014 (“Paid Sick Leave Law”) came into effect on January 1, 2015. Starting July 1, 2015, the new law entitles an employee to accrue up to three paid sick days in a 12-month period for the diagnosis, treatment or care of an existing health condition or for preventative care for the employee or the employee’s family members. Because the new Paid Sick Leave Law brings about significant changes regarding sick leave, employers should be aware of the changes and ensure that their sick leave policies and procedures are compliant with the new law.

Who is covered by the law?

All California employees, including part-time, per diem, and temporary employees, are covered by the law, as long as they work 30 days or more within a year. The law applies to both exempt and non-exempt employees, and there is no minimum number of employees needed in a workplace for the Paid Sick Leave Law to apply.

Only four groups of employees are exempt from coverage: (1) employees covered by collective bargaining agreements with specific paid leave provisions, (2) providers of publicly-funded in-home supportive services, (3) employees in the construction industry covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement, and (4) flight deck and cabin crew members of air carriers that receive compensation for time off equivalent under the new law.

How is paid sick leave earned?

Employees accrue paid sick leave at the rate of at least one (1) hour per every thirty (30) hours worked beginning either July 1, 2015 or on the first date of employment – whichever comes later. An employee may accrue up to 24 hours (or three days) per each 12-month employment year. Exempt employees accrue at least one (1) hour every forty (40) hours worked.

How much paid sick leave may an employee take?

Employees may request and use accrued paid sick days beginning on the 90th day of employment. Employers must allow employees to carry over paid sick days to the following year of employment up to six (6) days or forty-eight (48) hours of paid leave, but can limit the number of sick leave days used up to three (3) days in any one year. Employees may take as little as two (2) hours at a time in paid sick leave.

How is sick leave pay calculated?

The rate of sick leave pay is the employee’s hourly wage. If, during the 90-day period of employment before taking accrued sick leave, the employee had differing hourly pay rates, was paid by commission, or was a non-exempt salaried employee, then an employer must calculate the sick leave pay by dividing the employee’s total wages (not including any overtime pay), by the employee’s total hours worked in the full pay periods worked during the 90-day period.

What must an employer do to comply with the Paid Sick Leave Law?

Beginning January 1, 2015, an employer must provide notice to employees of their rights under the Paid Sick Leave Law when they are first hired and must place a poster informing employees of their rights in a conspicuous place in the office. Beginning July 1, 2015, an employer must comply with the sick day accrual, carry over, and use requirements. An employer cannot deny an employee the right to use accrued sick days and cannot discharge, demote, or discriminate against an employee for using accrued sick days. Further, an employer must provide notice on an employee’s itemized wage statement of the number of available sick days. Finally, an employer must keep records which document the number of hours worked, the number of paid sick days an employee has accrued, and the number of paid sick days an employee has used for at least three years.

For those employers that already have sick leave policies in place, changes are not necessarily required, so long as the policies provide no fewer than three paid sick days (24 hours) annually, allow for sick leave to carry over year to year up to six (6) days or forty eight (48) hours per year, and allow sick leave to be used for the employee and their family members, including parents-in-law, grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings.

Conclusion

The new Paid Sick Leave Law is significant, since California had no mandatory sick leave (paid or otherwise) prior to this law coming into effect. All California employers – no matter the size – should examine their sick leave policies and ensure they are in compliance prior to July 1, 2015, when the accrual period starts.