Provisions enacted in September requiring virtually all California employers to provide paid sick leave to employees — the seven-page long Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act – impose on employers extensive new legal obligations and risks.

The highlights include the following: 

 

The Covered Employers:

All employers in California regardless of size are subject to the new law.  The Act excludes only employers of certain domestic workers, airline employees, and workers represented by unions.

However, employers who already have a paid sick leave policy or paid time off (PTO) policy in place that provides at least equivalent paid leave time won’t be required to provide more paid time off under the Act.

 

The Eligible Employees:

Once an employee (full and part-time) has worked in California for 30 or more days in a year beginning on or after July 1, 2015, she is entitled to paid sick leave under the Act.

 

The Amount of Leave:

Employers are required to credit employees with not less than one hour of paid sick leave per every 30 hours worked, with accrual beginning on the later of July 1, 2015 or the hire date.  Employers are not obligated to allow total accrued paid sick leave to exceed 48 hours or six days.

Under the new law, accrued sick leave “shall carry over to the following year of employment,” unless the employer caps accrual at no less than 24 hours or three days.

How much paid sick leave time an employee uses at a time is up to the employee, although the employer may implement a policy setting a reasonable minimum increment of sick leave to be used.  The employer may not set a minimum increment greater than two hours.

In light of these provisions, well before July 1, 2015, employers must be prepared to implement and administer new paid leave policies that comply with the Act.

 

When Employers Must Allow Use of the Paid Leave:  
Employees are entitled to use their paid sick time for their or a family member’s existing health condition or preventive care or for employees who are victims of domestic violence.

As a condition of providing paid sick leave, employers can’t require employees to find other employees to cover shifts they can’t work because they’re sick.  This provision is of particular importance to restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, some of whom have imposed such a requirement on employees calling in sick.

 

New Pay Stub Requirement:

Beginning July 1, 2015, employers must include on all pay stubs the number of paid sick days or hours available at that time to the employee or give the employee a separate writing each pay day providing that information.  The Act also requires employers to keep for at least three years records regarding employees’ paid sick leave accrued and used, to display new posters, and to use a new Wage Theft Prevention Act Notice on hiring non-exempt employees.

 

Yet More Civil Liability for Employers:

The Act makes it unlawful for an employer to deny accrued paid sick leave and to retaliate in any way for an employee asking to use or using paid sick leave.

Under the Act, employees will be allowed to file complaints for violations with the Labor Commissioner, which will have authority to investigate and award reinstatement, back pay, payment of paid sick leave wrongly denied, and to award a range of administrative penalties.

 

Defenses:

Employers whose violations result from “isolated and unintentional payroll errors” or other “inadvertent mistakes” aren’t to be subjected to administrative penalties.  However, where an employer hasn’t, at a minimum, circulated to all employees a paid leave policy that complies with the Act, it may be difficult to prevail on a defense of inadvertent mistake.

If we may help you prepare to comply with the Act, we’ll be happy to speak with you.

The full text of the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 may be found by .

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