It’s Here – State Mandated Paid Sick Leave (AB 1522)

Touted as the “Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, the State of California mandates paid sick leave starting on July 1, 2015.  By law, an eligible employee accrues paid sick leave rights at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked.  Not all employees are eligible for this benefit.  For example, this law carved out exemptions for employees covered by certain collective bargaining agreeements, and those who provide MediCal in-home supportive services. 


By my calculation, if an employee works 40 hours per week, then (s)he can accrue 69.3 hours of paid sick time off per year.  But the law also states that an employer is not obligated to allow an employee to accrue more than 48 hours, or 6 days, of paid sick leave, provided the employee’s rights to accrue and use paid sick leave is not otherwise limited.  In addition, an employer may limit an employee’s use of paid sick days to 24 hours in each year of employment.   But then why does paid sick leave accrue at one hour for every 30 hours worked?  My concern is that this may result in employees using their sick leave when it reaches 48 hours so that they can continue to accrue, and use, additional time off. 


An exempt employee is deemed to work a 40-hour schedule, unless his/her schedule is less than 40 hours per week.  The law does not differentiate between overtime and regular hours for non-exempt employees.  Thus, conceivably these workers earn paid sick time on all hours worked, creating an extra administrative task in tracking accrual of paid sick time benefits. 


Unused sick leave carries over to the following year of employment.  If the employment relationship is severed, but the employee is rehired within one year of the date of separation, the employee is entitled to use any accrued but unused sick days upon rehire. 


An employee can use sick leave for diagnosis, care or treatment of a health condition, or for preventative care for him or herself, or for a family member.  A family member includes a spouse; registered domestic partner; child (biological, adopted, foster, step, legal ward) regardless of age; parent (biological, adoptive, foster, step, legal guardian) of the employee, spouse or registered domestic partner; grandparent; grandchild; or sibling.  An employee can also use paid sick leave benefits for time off due to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. 


Employers will be required to display a new poster detailing information about paid sick leave.  Moreover, the Notice to Employees, a requirement imposed on employers a couple of years ago, will be amended, to include a notice regarding paid sick leave rights. 


Records regarding sick leave accrued and used must be kept for three years.  And if paid sick leave days were unlawfully withheld, the employer will be penalized at least $250 with an administrative penalty not to exceed $4,000.  Liquidated damages can also be imposed against an employer who withholds paid sick leave benefits. 


This new law, effective July 1, 2015 will require employers to make significant changes to their sick leave policies.  For those clients who use our law firm or Sierra HR Partners for their handbooks, we will provide the information necessary to make the necessary changes during our "Year in Review" held in December.  We will even provide you with a model sick leave policy. 


Happy Labor Day!