On July 1, 2016, Los Angeles introduced its own paid sick leave ordinance as part of the Los Angeles Minimum Wage Ordinance. The requirements of this ordinance are in addition to California’s state-wide paid sick leave statute, the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, codified at Cal. Labor Code §§ 245 et seq. (CA PSL).
Below is a summary of the requirements under the new Los Angeles sick leave ordinance, and how it requires employers operating in Los Angeles to provide greater benefits to employees than they would otherwise be entitled to under the CA PSL.
Covered Employees and Use
A “covered employee” is defined in the same manner as under the CA PSL, i.e., an employee who works for the same employer in the city for 30 days or more within a year of the commencement of employment. Unlike the CA PSL, which contains narrow exceptions from its requirement for certain classifications of employees, the Los Angeles ordinance does not exclude any classification of employees from its requirements. Like the CA PSL, employees begin to accrue paid sick leave benefits on the later of July 1, 2016, or the first day of employment, and are entitled to use accrued sick leave beginning on the later of July 1, 2016, or the 90th day of employment.
Sick Leave Entitlement
The Los Angeles ordinance is more generous than the CA PSL, providing for an annual accrual and use of 48 hours of paid sick leave in each year of employment, calendar year or 12-month period. (CA PSL provides for only 24 hours or three days.) Employers can satisfy the Los Angeles ordinance only by using an accrual method of one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, or by providing an up-front grant of 48 hours of paid sick leave.
Carryover, Sick Leave Cap, Payment at Termination and Rehire
The Los Angeles ordinance requires that unused sick leave be carried over from year to year, regardless of whether it is accrued or granted on an annual basis. Additionally, the Los Angeles ordinance provides for a cap of no less than 72 hours of paid sick leave, while the CA PSL permits employers to cap accrual at 48 hours. An employer does not need to pay for accrued, unused sick leave upon termination, if that sick leave is provided as part of a stand-alone policy and not in conjunction with a policy that allows mixed-use (i.e., vacation and/or illness). Also, like with the CA PSL, an employee rehired within one year of separation shall have his or her accrued but unused paid sick leave reinstated.
Purposes of Use and Documentation
Employees can use paid sick leave for themselves or a family member for the same reasons as under the CA PSL, which include for the diagnosis, care, preventive care or treatment of a health condition of an employee or family member, or for purposes related to the employee being a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. The Los Angeles ordinance broadly defines who constitutes a “family member” whose illness or preventative care will justify an employee using paid sick leave to include “any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.” The Los Angeles ordinance does permit an employer to request “reasonable documentation” for an absence of three or more consecutive days for which paid sick leave is used. The CA PSL is silent regarding the ability of employers to request any such documentation.
Pre-Existing Paid Leave Policies
The Los Angeles ordinance provides that if any employer already provides paid leave or paid time off that is equal to 48 hours or more per year, the employer need not provide additional time off.
Notice, Recordkeeping Requirements and Anti-Retaliation Provisions
Employers are required to post, at any workplace or job site, the city-approved notice in English and any other language spoken by at least 5% of the employees at that site, and must also keep payroll records for four years (as opposed to three years under the CA PSL) to demonstrate compliance. The Los Angeles ordinance also prohibits retaliation against an employee for exercising his or her right to take sick leave.
Fines for violations of the Los Angeles ordinance range from $500 to $1,000, and each day that a violation exists is considered a separate and distinct violation, which can lead to steep penalties. Possible violations will be investigated by the Los Angeles City Bureau of Contract Administration, Office of Wage Standards.
Los Angeles Communities Subject to the Ordinance
Some Los Angeles-area communities that maintain their own identities are in fact part of the city of Los Angeles and are subject to the ordinance. The ordinance does not apply to separately incorporated cities in Los Angeles County such as Culver City, Burbank and Pasadena.
Trends in Sick Leave Laws
The Los Angeles ordinance continues a broader trend of municipalities enacting paid sick leave laws that supplement not only state sick leave laws such as the CA PSL but state and federal unpaid leave laws such as the Family and Medical Leave Act. In 2016, Spokane, Minneapolis and Chicago have each enacted paid sick leave laws, joining several other cities that already have adopted such laws.
This panoply of state, federal and now municipal laws and regulations governing leave creates increasing challenges for employers. This trend is expected to continue as city governments attempt to take a more active role in regulating terms and conditions of employment.