California Becomes Second State To Require Paid Sick Leave

California Becomes Second State To Require Paid Sick Leave

California Governor Jerry Brown yesterday signed into law the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (AB 1522), which requires employers to provide paid sick leave to most California employees.  According to the Legislature, sick leave benefits are good for both employers and employees, as sick leave lowers health care costs, increases productivity and prevents the spread of illness.

California’s Paid Sick Leave Entitlement

The law, which takes effect on July 1, 2015, entitles eligible employees working in California for 30 or more days within a year from the start of their employment to paid sick leave for the employee’s own illness or that of a family member (including a child, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, grandparent, grandchild or sibling).  Employees must accrue paid sick leave at a rate of no less than one hour for every 30 hours worked and may begin taking paid sick leave after 90 days of employment.  Employees may take leave in minimum increments not to exceed two hours.

The law allows employees to carry over unused paid sick leave to the following year of employment, but employers may limit an employee’s use of paid sick leave to 24 hours (3 days) per year and may cap the employee’s total accrual at 48 hours (six days).  Unlike accrued vacation, employers need not pay out accrued and unused sick leave upon termination of employment.  However, if an employer re-hires an employee within one year of termination, the employer must reinstate any prior accrued and unused leave.

Notice and Recordkeeping Requirements

In order to take paid sick leave, employees must provide reasonable advance notice of their need for sick leave when the need is foreseeable.  If the need for leave is not foreseeable, employees must provide notice as soon as practicable.  Employers must notify employees in writing of the amount of sick leave available to them, either on their pay stubs or in a separate document issued on the employee’s pay date.  Employers must also keep records documenting the paid sick time each employee accrued and used, for a minimum of three years.

Protection from Retaliation

The new law also provides protection against retaliation – an employer may not take an adverse employment action against any employee who uses or attempts to exercise the right to use his accrued paid sick leave.  A presumption of retaliation exists if an employer denies an employee use of paid sick leave or otherwise takes an adverse action against an employee within 30 days of the filing of a Labor Commissioner charge alleging violation of the law, cooperation with an investigation into an alleged violation, or opposition to an employer policy or practice that conflicts with the law.