California Paid Sick Leave Law

California has long been known to have strong protections for employees, and it was one of the first states in the US to require employers to provide paid sick leave. California’s paid sick leave law is known as the Healthy Workplace, Healthy Family Act of 2014, and applies to all employers in the state. It is important for both employers and employees to understand what this law covers. Read on to learn more and if you have any questions, speak with a knowledgeable Orange County employment lawyer.

What Is Covered Under the Paid Sick Leave Law?

Under California’s sick leave laws, employees can take sick leave for their own health condition or the health condition of a family member. This leave includes preventative care. For the purposes of this law, a “family member” is defined as a:

  • spouse
  • domestic partner
  • child
  • parent
  • grandparent
  • parent-in-law
  • grandchild
  • sibling

Employees are also allowed to use sick leave if they are the victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

Nearly every employee in the state is eligible to receive paid sick leave, provided they work at least 30 days in a year. Employees will accrue sick leave after they have worked for an employer for 90 days. An employee will accrue one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours they work, and sick leave must carry over from year to year (however, employers can place a cap of 48 accrued hours on sick leave).

Employers are not required to payout accrued sick leave to an employee in the event employee is terminated or quits. However, if the employee is rehired within one year of termination, their accrued sick leave must be reinstated.

Under the law, an employer can restrict a worker’s use of sick leave to 24 hours (three days) per year. Employers are also allowed to require workers to take sick leave in at least two-hour increments.

How Has COVID-19 Changed California Paid Sick Leave?

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Beginning April 1, 2020, employees of companies with less than 500 workers could be entitled to coronavirus-related paid sick leave as well as expanded family and medical leave. Under the law, the following is available:

  • If the reason for leave is due to quarantine orders, self-quarantining, or COVID-19 testing, employees can receive up to two weeks of paid sick leave at 100% of their regular pay rate.
  • If the reason for leave is due to caretaking for someone under a quarantine order or who is self-quarantining, employees could receive up to two weeks of paid sick leave at 2/3 of their regular pay rate.
  • If the reason for leave is to take care of a child whose school is closed and child care is unavailable due to COVID-19, an employee could receive up to 10 additional weeks of expanded family and medical leave at 2/3 of their regular pay rate.

Employers Must Abide by the Law

Employers must abide by paid sick leave laws in the state. They cannot deny an employee their right to use sick leave, and they cannot retaliate against an employee for using their sick leave. Employees could file a lawsuit against employers in California for sick leave violations.

It is important to understand that sick leave laws are different from California’s Family and Medical Leave laws that provide unpaid leave for employees. Workers that use all of their paid sick leave may have job protection under unpaid sick leave laws.

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