On September 10, 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (AB 1522) (Act). Beginning July 1, 2015, almost all public and private sector employers in California will be required to provide California employees with at least three paid sick days per year for a personal illness, a family member’s health condition, or leave related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
California employees who work at least 30 days within a year of commencing their employment are covered under the Act. Excluded from coverage under the Act are the following: (1) employees that are covered by a collective bargaining agreement that meets certain specifications; (2) providers of in-home supportive services; and (3) individuals employed by an air carrier as a flight deck or cabin crew member that is subject to the provisions of Title II of the federal Railway Labor Act, provided that the individual is provided with compensated time off equal to or exceeding the amount specified in the new law.
Paid Leave Structure
Employers have two options for structuring their paid leave policies. First, they can allow their employees to accrue vacation at a rate of no less than one hour for every 30 hours worked, with the option of limiting accrual at 48 hours (six days). Accrued paid sick days shall carry over to the following year, but employers also have the option of limiting an employees’ use of paid sick days to 24 hours (three days) in each year of employment. Second, instead of the accrual method, employers can give all employees at least 24 hours (three days) of paid sick leave at the beginning of each year. Under this option, no accrual or carryover is required.
Importantly, employers will now have added record keeping, posting, and notice requirements, including, providing employees with notice on their pay stub, or a separate document issued on the same day as their paycheck, of how many days of sick leave the employee has available. Unlike with paid vacation leave, employers are not required to cash out a departing or terminated employee’s unused paid sick days. Finally, the Act prohibits an employer from discriminating or retaliating against an employee who requests paid sick days.
Failure to comply with the Act may subject an employer to civil and administrative penalties. The California Labor Commissioner is authorized to enforce the law and remedies for a violation include reinstatement, backpay, payment of sick days wrongfully withheld, and administrative penalties. In addition, both the Labor Commissioner and the California Attorney General may file a civil action to enforce the law.
Employers should review the Act carefully and consult with an attorney to ensure policies and procedures are in compliance with the Act prior to its effective date on July 1, 2015.