California has added to its list of required employee benefits by adopting a new paid sick leave law.  While the legislation itself took effect January 1, 2015, an employee's right to accrue and take sick leave under the new law is effective July 1, 2015. Under the new law, all employers (regardless of size), must provide paid sick leave to all employees who work at least 30 days within a year in California, including part-time, per diem, and temporary employees, with only limited exceptions (for example, collectively-bargained employees with a negotiated agreement that contain certain specified provisions).  Each qualifying employee begins to accrue paid sick leave beginning on July 1, 2015 (or the hire date if later).

Under the new rules, employees earn at least one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked.  So for a "full-time" worker, approximately eight days of leave are accrued per year.  However, an employer can adopt a written policy that limits the amount of paid sick leave that any employee can use in any one year (but not less than 3 days). A "year" is measured separately for each worker and is tracked on an anniversary year basis following date of hire (or July 1, 2015 for current employees). An employer also does not have to permit use of any accrued paid sick leave under the rules until the employee has completed 90-days of employment.

Some of the key features of the new law include:

  • An employer may, but is not required, to advance sick leave.
  • Unused, accrued sick leave days are carried over to the next year, but an employer can establish a cap by written policy (not less than 48 hours of accrued leave time).
  • While accrued unused sick leave does not have to be cashed out upon a termination of employment, such accrued sick leave must be restored to an employee if the worker returns to the same employer within 12 months from the prior separation from service.
  • The new law requires employers to separately track sick leave accrual and use.
  • The paid sick leave time may be used for an employee's, or his or her family member's, preventive care or care of an existing health condition or for specified purposes if the employee is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. Preventive care includes annual physicals and immunizations. Reasonable advance notice must be provided by the employee if the need for leave is foreseeable.
  • Employers must report the number of days of sick leave available for use on an employee's pay stub or other document issued on the same day as the employee's paycheck.  Employers must also keep records of accrued and used hours for three years.
  • Employers are required to post a public notice in the workplace providing specific information about the sick leave accrual and use entitlements.