On September 10, 2014, Governor Jerry Brown of California signed into law the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, a state law requiring nearly all California employers to provide paid sick time to employees.
The Requirements of the New Law
The new law, which goes into effect on July 1, 2015, grants covered employees the right to accrue at least one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. Covered employees are generally those who work in California for 30 or more days within a year from the commencement of employment. However, the new law has exceptions and does not apply to employees covered by certain collective bargaining agreements, employees providing certain in-home supportive services, and certain airline flight crew members, for example.
The new law specifies that an employee may begin using accrued paid sick time following the employee’s 90th day of employment. The law also specifies that paid sick time may be used for specific purposes – an existing health condition or certain preventative care of an employee or a family member or because an employee is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. The law defines “family member” as a child (including a foster child, stepchild, legal ward, and child for whom the employee acts as a parent), a parent (including a foster parent, stepparent, legal guardian, and parent of the employee’s spouse or registered domestic partner), a spouse, a registered domestic partner, a grandparent, a grandchild, and a sibling. The new law imposes restrictions on employees seeking to take sick time. For example, an employee wishing to use accrued paid sick time must provide reasonable advance notice to the employer or, if the need is unforeseeable, the employee must give notice as soon as practicable.
Generally, unused, accrued paid sick time must carry over to the following year of employment, but an employer may limit an employee’s use of paid sick time to 24 hours or three days in each year of employment. Total accrual of paid sick time may be capped at 48 hours or six days. The new law does not require an employer to provide additional paid sick time if it has a paid leave policy or paid time off policy that makes available an amount of paid leave that may be used for the same purposes and under the same conditions as those specified by the new law, and the policy either (1) satisfies the accrual, carry over, and use requirements of the new law or (2) provides at least 24 hours or three days of paid sick time or paid time off annually. Additionally, employers are not required to pay terminating employees for accrued but unused paid sick time at the time of termination, but rehired employees returning within one year of their separation must be credited with their previously accrued but unused paid sick time.
Employers must post a notice in the workplace informing employees of their rights under the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act. When new employees are hired, employers must provide a written statement informing the new hires of certain rights regarding paid sick time. In addition, employers must periodically provide each employee with written notice of the amount of paid sick time available. This notice must appear either on the employee’s itemized wage statement or in a separate written document provided each payday. Under the new law, it is unlawful for an employer to deny an employee the use of accrued paid sick time and to discriminate against an employee for using or attempting to use paid sick time or for making a complaint or participating in an investigation under the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act.
The Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act imposes significant new obligations on employers with operations in California. Those employers should, before the July 1, 2015 effective date of the new law, review their paid sick time or paid time off policies to ensure that they satisfy the new California requirements. Employers should also make arrangements to comply with the posting and notice requirements of the paid sick time law. Because the new law prohibits employers from denying paid sick time when the employee gives appropriate notice and from discriminating against employees who use paid sick time, it effectively creates a new leave right for California employees. Supervisors should therefore be trained concerning the requirements of the new law to avoid any unintentional violations.