The Los Angeles mayor has approved a paid sick leave ordinance that requires employers to provide 48 hours of paid sick leave each year, twice the amount required under California’s statewide paid sick leave law. San Diego voters have approved a similar ordinance that will provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave each year as part of the city’s new minimum wage law. Large employers with 26 or more employees must comply with the Los Angeles ordinance beginning July 1, 2016, with implementation delayed by one year for small businesses (those with 25 or fewer employees). In San Diego, employers must comply upon certification of the election results, in approximately mid-July 2016.

The two cities join a growing collection of California communities that have enacted their own paid sick leave laws, including San Francisco, Oakland, Emeryville and Santa Monica. Long Beach and Los Angeles also have paid sick leave ordinances for hotel workers. Employers must comply not only with the local laws, but also with the state’s Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014. Santa Monica’s minimum wage and paid sick leave ordinance goes into effect July 1, 2016, although employers are not required to comply with the paid sick leave provision until January 1, 2017.

The state’s law and the local ordinances are similar but not identical. Where there are differences, employers are required to comply with the requirement that provides the most generous benefit to employees. Below is a brief overview of the new ordinances.

Los Angeles

The Los Angeles City Council voted June 1, 2016, to pass the amendment to the Los Angeles Minimum Wage Ordinance, and Mayor Eric Garcetti approved it the next day. Employees who work in the city for the same employer for 30 days or more as of July 1, 2016, are entitled to paid sick leave. Paid sick leave accrues from the first day of employment or July 1, 2016, whichever is later. An employee may use paid sick leave beginning on the 90th day of employment or on July 1, 2016, whichever is later. The ordinance does not provide an exception for employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

Employers must provide paid sick leave either: (1) by providing the entire 48 hours to an employee at the beginning of each year of employment, calendar year or 12-month period; or (2) by providing the employee with one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Employees may take up to 48 hours of paid sick leave in each year of employment, calendar year or 12-month period. Accrued unused leave carries over to the following year of employment. Employers may impose an accrual cap of 72 hours or more.

If an employer has a paid time off (PTO) policy or provides payment for compensated time off that is at least 48 hours, no additional time is required. An employer must provide paid sick leave upon the oral or written request of an employee for themselves or a family member, or for “any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.”

While the city ordinance would permit an employer to require “reasonable documentation” of an absence from work for which paid sick leave is used, the state’s paid sick leave law has no provision that would allow an employer to condition the paid sick leave on a doctor’s note. An employer may be accused of interfering with an employee’s use of paid sick leave if it requires a doctor’s note as a condition for paid sick leave.

San Diego

San Diego’s paid sick leave ordinance was placed on referendum and was approved by the city’s voters on June 7, 2016. Upon certification of the election results, the ordinance will cover employees who work at least two hours within the city’s geographic boundaries in one or more calendar weeks of the year.

Employers must provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked by the employee within the geographic boundaries of the city, but employers are not required to provide paid sick leave in less than one-hour increments for a fraction of an hour worked. An employer that provides an employee with an amount of paid leave, including PTO, vacation or personal days, sufficient to meet the requirements of the ordinance and allows such leave to be used for the same purposes and under the same conditions as the ordinance, is not required to provide additional paid sick leave.

Paid sick leave begins to accrue at the commencement of employment or on April 1, 2015 (yes, that is the correct date), whichever is later. The ordinance places no limit on the amount of paid sick leave an employee may accrue. It places a use limit of 40 hours per year. An employee may begin using accrued sick leave after the 90th calendar day of employment. The ordinance does not provide an exception for employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement, but it does not modify any obligation to comply with a collective bargaining agreement providing higher wages or more paid sick leave.

Minimum Wage: The paid sick leave requirements are part of San Diego’s new minimum wage. The minimum wage in the city increases to $10.50 when the ordinance becomes effective, then to $11.50 on January 1, 2017. Starting January 1, 2019, the city’s minimum wage will increase by an amount corresponding to the prior year’s increase in the cost of living.

Santa Monica

In January 2016, Santa Monica adopted a paid sick leave law as part of its minimum wage ordinance. According to the city’s website, employers must comply with the paid sick leave provisions beginning on January 1, 2017. The ordinance applies to employees who, in a particular week, perform at least two hours of work within the city’s geographic boundaries and who qualify for minimum wage under California law. The city is phasing in accrual caps under the ordinance as follows:

  • January 1, 2017: The accrual cap will be 32 hours for businesses with 25 or fewer employees, or 40 hours for larger businesses.
  • January 1, 2018: The cap will be 40 hours for small businesses or 72 hours for larger businesses.

Employees may carry over accrued sick leave from year to year up to the accrual cap. The ordinance allows for front-loading, as long as the front-loading method provides leave consistent with the required accrual amounts. Employees are eligible to use paid sick leave after the first 90 days of employment or consistent with the employer’s policies, whichever is sooner.

The ordinance does not apply to employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement to the extent that the law’s requirements are expressly waived in the agreement in clear and unambiguous terms.

Minimum Wage: The minimum wage in Santa Monica increases on July 1, 2016, to $10.50 for large employers, with a one-year delay for small employers, then increases incrementally each July 1.

Hotel Workers: For hotel workers, the minimum “living wage” in Santa Monica becomes $13.25 per hour on July 1, 2016, with increases on July 1, 2017, and annually thereafter to match the hourly wage set for hotel workers in Los Angeles. The city’s finance director may grant a waiver from the requirements if a hotel employer can demonstrate that compliance would force the hotel employer, in order to avoid bankruptcy or a shutdown of the hotel, to reduce its workforce by more than 20 percent or curtail its hotel workers’ total hours by more than 30 percent. Any waiver granted will be valid for up to one year. The Hotel-Worker Living Wage applies to businesses that contract, lease, or sublet on hotel property or provide services on hotel property, in addition to hotel owners. he ordinance does not apply to employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement to the extent that the law’s requirements are expressly waived in the agreement in clear and unambiguous terms.

Service Charges: Santa Monica requires that employers who collect service charges from customers must pay the entirety of those charges to the workers who performed those services.