Governor Brown recently ushered in a new level of benefits for California employees. Effective July 1, 2015, and known as the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (the “Act”), the new law requires employers to provide paid sick leave benefits to all employees (with very limited exceptions).
In short, the Act applies to all employers, public or private and regardless of size, except for certain airline industry employees, in-home support services employees, and union employees. Not only must employers display the appropriate postings from the Labor Commissioner notifying employees of their eligibility, employers must also notify employees in writing at the time of hire regarding their sick leave benefits.
Employees will earn paid sick leave after they have worked 30 days in a one year period. Although employees start accruing after 30 days of work, they will not be eligible to use their accrued sick leave until they have completed 90 days of employment.
While an employer is permitted to limit an employee’s use of paid sick leave to 24 hours (or three days) per year, the employer must permit employees to carry over accrued but unused sick leave from year to year. In addition, an employer may cap the total accrued leave at 48 hours provided there are no other limitations of the right to use or accrue. An employer must also keep employees informed of their sick leave usage and balance on the employees’ regular wage statements or in a separate writing accompanying the regular paychecks. Upon termination of employment, an employer is not required to compensate an employee for accrued but unused paid sick leave but is required to reinstate the accrued balance if the employee is rehired within one year of their original separation date.
If an employee chooses to utilize accrued sick leave, the employee must provide reasonable advance notice for any foreseeable leave. If the leave is not foreseeable, the employee must provide notice to the employer as soon as practicable.
An employee may use paid sick leave for the diagnosis, care or treatment of an existing health condition of, or preventative care for, themselves as well as their family members. A “family member” is specially defined as a child, foster parent/step-parent/legal guardian, spouse, registered domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling. In addition, special provisions allow the victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking to use their accrued sick leave for paid time off as a result of their circumstances.
The Act makes clear that an employer must keep records relating to hours worked and paid sick days accrued and used for three years (but as a best practice, all wage and hour records should be maintained for at least four years in the event of potential litigation issues). Finally, the Act further prevents an employer from denying, discriminating against, or retaliating against any employee for exercising their right to take protected sick leave.