Technology companies should be aware that a growing number of jurisdictions in California are requiring companies to provide paid sick leave to their employees. These laws are applicable to companies of all sizes that have employees working in the particular jurisdictions. The following is an overview of various paid sick leave laws within California.

  • San Francisco has a paid sick leave ordinance that has been in place since 2007.
  • Oakland recently enacted a paid sick leave ordinance that took effect on March 2, 2015.
  • California recently passed a statewide paid sick leave statute that will  take effect  on July 1, 2015. All companies with employees in California must comply with the statewide law. Companies with employees in San Francisco or Oakland must comply with both the statewide law and the local ordinance.

San Francisco and Oakland Paid Sick Leave Ordinances    

The San Francisco and Oakland ordinances are very similar. Each ordinance requires employers to provide employees with one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked within the city’s geographic boundaries. Unused sick leave carries over from year to year, but accrual can be capped at 72 hours.  A lower accrual cap of 40 hours can be applied for small businesses with less than ten workers.

Under the San Francisco ordinance, employees begin to accrue on February 5, 2007 or 90 days after the first day of employment, whichever is later, and employees can start using paid sick leave immediately upon accrual. Under the Oakland ordinance, employees begin to accrue sick leave on March 2, 2015 or on the first day of employment, whichever is later, and can start using paid sick leave after 90 days of employment.

Paid sick leave can be used for the employee’s own illness, injury or medical treatment, or to care for family members who are ill, injured or need medical treatment. Employees who do not have  a spouse or domestic  partner can designate another person for whom they may use paid sick leave. Unused sick leave does not have to be cashed out at the end of the employment.

California Statewide Paid Sick Leave Statute

The California statewide paid sick leave statute will take effect on July 1, 2015, and similarly requires employers to provide employees with one hour of paid sick leave  for every 30 hours worked. Unused sick leave carries over from year to year, but accrual can be capped at 48 hours. In addition, an employee’s use of paid sick leave can be capped at 24 hours per year.

The California statute also provides an  alternative: employers can provide three days (24 hours) of paid sick leave for immediate use at the start of each year, in which case any unused leave does not carry over to the next year.

Employees begin to accrue paid sick leave under the California statute on July 1, 2015 or the first day of employment, whichever is later, and can start using paid sick leave on the 90th day of employment.

As with the local ordinances, employees can use paid sick leave for themselves or for family members. The statewide statute also permits other uses for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. However, the statewide statute does not provide for designation of another person if the employee does not have a spouse or domestic partner. As with the local ordinances, unused sick leave does not have to be cashed out at the end of employment.

The California statute imposes additional requirements that are not present in the local ordinances:

  • Employers must notify employees of the amount of their available paid sick leave with each paycheck, such as on the employee’s paystub.
  • Employers  also  must  provide  information  about paid sick leave to employees on wage notices that are  to be given to non‐exempt employees at the start of employment.

Generally Applicable Provisions

Employers with paid time off (PTO) or vacation policies that meet all requirements of applicable paid sick leave laws do not need to do anything further. However, such policies also must comply with requirements that apply to PTO or vacation policies, such as cash‐out of unused leave at the end of employment.

The paid sick leave laws all generally require employees to post notices in the work place, and to maintain records of employee accrual and use of paid sick leave.

Paid sick leave laws are just one example of how the landscape of employer regulations is constantly evolving. As new or modified employment laws emerge at the federal, state and local levels, companies should confirm their policies and practices are up to date.