The Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, will go into effect July 1, 2015, creating a new requirement that all California employers provide their employees with at least 3 days or 24 hours of paid sick leave per year. The new statewide law establishes minimum requirements it does not preempt or limit other applicable laws, or contracts that provide greater sick leave benefits. In fact the law specifically excludes employees covered by a union contract, which expressly provides sick leave, so most union members will not be affected by this new law. The primarily impact of the law will be on temporary, part-time, and seasonal employees who work in California thirty or more days in a calendar year but did not previously have any paid sick leave.
The new law sets an accrual requirement so that employees must accrue at least one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours they work, which equates to 5.3 hours a month for full time employees. Exempt employees will be considered to work 40 hours per workweek unless the employee’s normal workweek is less than 40 hours. Accrued sick days that are not used will carry over to the next year, up to a permissible accrual cap of 48 hours. Employers are not required to pay out sick leave like vacation, upon separation.
Under the new law, sick leave may be used for diagnosis, care, or treatment of an existing health condition of, or preventative care for, an employee or an employee’s family member. Employers must allow employees to begin using their accrued leave beginning at 90 days of employment, and cannot condition the use of leave on an employee finding someone to cover a shift. Employers are also required under the new law to: provide employees with written notice of the amount of paid sick leave they have available; post information in the workplace about the law and; record hours worked, sick days accrued and used.
The law also addresses retaliation, creating a rebuttable presumption of retaliation where an employer takes an adverse action within 30 days of an employee: filing a compliant with the Labor Commissioner or in court alleging a violation of the new law; cooperating with an investigation or prosecution of the law; or opposing a policy, practice or act that is prohibited by the new law.
Similar new laws, that mandate paid sick leave, have been enacted in states and municipalities over the past few years, and the it appears the trend is gaining momentum.
California employers that are not currently providing their employees with sick leave must begin to do so by July 1, 2015. Employers with existing paid time off or sick leave policies should review those policies to ensure they are in compliance with the new law, including the notice, posting, and record-keeping requirements. Where the new law applies to union employees because they do not already have paid sick leave, the employer will be required to negotiate implementation of the new law with the union, through the meet and confer process.