California Labor Paid Sick Leave Laws Clarified, Still Complicated


Sacramento, CA While recent changes in California labor law relating to sick pay and paid time off for illness were designed as a help and support for California workers, implementing and maintaining those changes has served as a bit of a headache for employers.

In sum, The Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (AB 1522) was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown last year for a planned two-stage implementation at the beginning of 2015. Various changes to record keeping and the posting of notices were brought in at the first of the year, followed by the implementation of changes to accruals and reporting on July 1.

The aforementioned changes to the California labor code were part of the original adoption of AB 1522. However, employers found the rollout somewhat overwhelming, requiring an update to AB 1522 in an effort to straighten out some of the confusion.

That update came in the form of AB 304, a bill that Governor Brown swiftly signed into law on July 14 and is effective immediately. The amendments provide some clarification with regard to compliance over payments, provisions for time off and so on. The clarifications are important not only for the employer - in order to properly comply - but also the employee, for whom a basic understanding of the new provisions is important in order to identify whether or not an employer is properly conforming to the new guidelines.

One of the clarifications with regard to California and labor law stemming from the quick passage of AB 304 has to do with record keeping: while an employer can know the reason(s) and purposes for which an employee uses paid sick time, there is no requirement in record-keeping protocols for maintaining documentation to that end.

Were an employer to maintain documentation with regard to the purposes for paid sick leave, or were an employee to find himself getting stiffed on sick pay and sick leave, he needs to be able to identify incidents of noncompliance in order to initiate and pursue a California labor lawsuit, as required.

AB 304 clarifies protocols for calculating paid sick leave, and the employer now has two options for doing so: 1) a calculation formula akin to the regular rate of pay for overtime calculation for the workweek in which paid sick time is used, and 2) the original calculation protocol dividing the employee’s total wages, not including overtime premium pay, by the employee’s total hours worked in the full pay periods of the prior 90 days of employment.

The July 14th amendment also provides for alternate accrual methods beyond the formula of one hour for each 30 hours worked, provided the accrual is on a regular basis and the employee will have 24 hours of paid sick leave available by the 120th calendar day of employment.

There is also clarification, for the purposes of California labor employment law, with regard to the right an employer has in limiting an employee’s use of paid sick days to 24 hours or 3 days either: (1) in each year of employment (by anniversary year, for example); or (2) in each calendar year; or (3) in any specified 12-month period.

Among other provisions in AB 304 is clarification over the requirement that an employee, to be eligible for paid sick leave, must be in a position to have worked for the same employer for 30 days, as opposed to simply working for any employer in the state of California.

There is a somewhat complicated grandfather clause for those employees who were provided paid sick leave or paid time off prior to the implementation of AB 1522 at the first of the year, and for whom a different method for accruing sick time may have been used. This clause allows for a more gradual accrual, provided the employee accrues eight hours of paid sick leave in the first three months of employment and was eligible to earn 24 hours of sick leave or paid time off within nine months of employment.

At the end of the day, California state labor laws are intended to level the playing field and provide fairness for the employee. A mutual understanding of California employee labor law is an important prerequisite for the employer to properly implement new laws, and for the employee to understand when those statutes are being accidentally or purposefully circumvented…

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  1. ruben Anguiano
    July 27, 2015
    Buenas tardes mi duda es a cuanto tiempo podemos pedir dias de enfermedad o vacaciones, y si estas ultimas son pagadas por mi empleador. por que por ahorita tengo un problema de salud por lo que he faltado como una vez casa dos semanas y si eso me perjudica y puede ocacionar despido, tambien si es discriminacion que mi manager tome cosas personales para tomar bentaja de mi y evitar mi aumento solo por caerle mal. gracias y necesito ayuda urgente.
  2. james matthews
    July 23, 2015
    I have not been getting rest breaks every 2 hours.....for about 5 months...I questioned a payment of mine that was reversed retroactively...I questioned mileage reimbursement...I also questioned my employer about money owed to me about California New Labor Law regarding sick leave...I was terminated abruptly...Do I have grounds for a wrongful termination suit.....I am a pharmacist who was employed part time by a national recruiting agency who placed me in Rite-Aid stores in central California......What do you think ?

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