The Corporate Law Group

California’s New Sick Leave Law

California's New Sick Leave LawOn September 10th, Governor Brown signed a new sick leave law. Beginning on July 1, 2015, employers are required to provide at least 24 hours of paid sick leave to employees who work 30 or more days in California within a 12 month period. The new law covers all employees, exempt and non-exempt, regardless of full-time, part-time, temporary, or intern status. Employers have the option of either accruing sick leave hours (1 hour for each 30 hours worked) or granting the employee 24 hours of paid sick leave at the beginning of the year. If the employer chooses the accrual method, the sick leave accrual may be capped at 48 hours and the employer may limit the number of sick leave hours used in one year to 24 hours. All accrued but unused sick leave hours must be carried over to the next year but, unlike vacation or general PTO hours, accrued hours are not required to be paid out on termination (if the employee is rehired within 12 months the employer must reinstate the employee’s accrued but unused hours). Employees may begin using their accrued sick leave 90 days after their start date (or July 31, 2015 for those employees employed prior to July 1, 2015).

The sick leave may be used for the diagnosis, care, treatment of, or preventative care for an existing health condition of an employee or the employee’s family member (including grandparents, siblings, parents and in-laws). When using the sick leave an employee should give reasonable advanced notice for any foreseeable leave or, if not possible, as soon as practicable. The employer may not require as a condition of using sick leave that the employee find a replacement worker nor may the employer use the use of sick leave against an employee for disciplinary purposes. An employer may, however, require the employee to use the sick leave in two hour increments. To the Buzz it also looks like an employer may not request a note from a doctor when using the sick leave unless the request is allowed under another sick leave law (e.g. FMLA, CFRA, ADA, etc.).

In addition to the sick leave hours, beginning January 1, 2015, employers are required to track and include on each employee’s wage statement the amount of paid sick leave or other paid time off available to the employee. Employers are required to maintain for at least 3 years records of the number of hours worked, the number of paid sick leave hours accrued, and the number of sick leave hours used by each employee. Employers who don’t maintain records or who violate other provisions of the sick leave law may be subject to fines and penalties.

So long as the plan meets the minimum accrual rate, accrual cap, minimum usage amount, and other notice requirements, employers may offer employees paid sick leave under a general PTO plan. Because the new law requires that all sick leave hours be tracked and employees may use sick leave on little notice sometimes leaving the employer scrambling to fill, the Buzz suggests that a separate sick leave plan be implemented for all employers who have a general PTO or unaccrued vacation plans to avoid the burden of potentially all hours being subject to the new law’s requirements.

These are just some of the requirements of the new sick leave law and we encourage you to give us a call if you have any questions or need help making sure your leave policies are in compliance. The Labor Commissioner is developing a new work posting for the new law but it is not yet available. We’ll update you when it is out.