Los Angeles area employers are now required by law to provide their employees with even more paid sick time off.

On June 2, 2016 the City of Los Angeles passed a new ordinance (Ordinance No. 184320) (the “Ordinance”) requiring employers to provide employees working within the City of Los Angeles a minimum of 48 hours of paid sick leave per year. While the Ordinance echoes many of the requirements already in place under California’s state-wide sick pay law, there are some significant differences. Most notably, the Ordinance doubles the minimum amount of paid sick leave required by the state, increases the accrual cap to 72 hours and permits the use of paid sick time to care for any individual related by “affinity,” a term that the Ordinance does not define. The law goes into effect July 1, 2016.

Covered employees under the new Los Angeles Ordinance

The Ordinance applies to all employees who have worked for 30 or more days within a year from the commencement of employment and who work for two or more hours per week in the City of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles County website lists cities and neighborhoods that are located within the boundaries of Los Angeles. The law impacts any employer who employs even one employee within the City of Los Angeles.

New requirements for paid sick time

Under the Ordinance, employers must provide covered employees at least 48 hours of paid sick leave per year. Employers may provide the entire 48 hours of sick leave up front or use an accrual method.

Under the accrual method, an employee must accrue at least one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. Current covered employees must begin to accrue paid sick leave at the new rate beginning July 1, 2016. Like the California law, an employer may restrict use of sick leave by a covered employee until the 90th day of employment.

An employer using the accrual method may cap the use of paid sick time at 48 hours per year (or during any 12-month period). However, if the employer uses the accrual method, any unused sick time must be carried over to the following year. Employers using the accrual method can cap total accrual at 72 hours.

Significantly, the Ordinance permits sick leave to be used for “any individual related by blood or affinity [to the employee] whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.” The Ordinance does not provide any guidance on the meaning of the term “affinity” or what would be equivalent to a family relationship.

Lastly, like the California law, the Ordinance does not require any action if an employer’s sick leave or paid time off policy is more generous than the requirements under the Ordinance. However, whether a policy is “more generous” will be determined by the City’s Bureau of Contract Administration’s Office of Wage Standards.

Potential Penalties

The Ordinance provides for a per-violation penalty of $120 for each employee, per day of violation. The penalty is calculated from the day after the sick pay benefits should have been paid to the day the sick time benefits are paid in full. The Ordinance permits a private cause of action and recoupment of reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs for the prevailing party. It also provides for extensive fees and penalties to be paid directly to the City. In short, violations can result in substantial costs for employers.

Next steps for employers

Employers with qualifying employees must review their sick leave policies to ensure compliance with the new Ordinance. An employer using an accrual method for sick pay should ensure that the accrual method provides a minimum of 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, any cap on annual usage cannot be less than 48 hours per year, and the cap on total accrual is at least 72 hours.

Further, employers who provide a paid sick leave or paid time off policy must review whether the policy permits paid time off for the same purposes and under the same conditions as specified in the Ordinance. If it does not, the City’s Bureau of Contract Administration’s Office of Wage Standards may allow an employer’s existing paid leave policy to remain in place if the agency determines that the established policy is overall more generous.

Finally, the Ordinance contains additional posting and notice requirements which employers need to take into consideration. Notices required by the Ordinance can be found at http://wagesla.lacity.org.

Employers will need to navigate carefully between the requirements of California’s sick pay law, the new Los Angeles Ordinance, and any other local Ordinances, such as Santa Monica, San Francisco and Oakland, that may affect sick pay policies. Contact your legal counsel to ensure compliance with all federal, state, and local laws.