California Employees Entitled to Paid Sick Leave Beginning Today

By Megan Black and Travis Hockaday

Have you reviewed your paid time off (PTO) policy lately? If you have employees in California, now is the time to do so. Effective today, July 1, 2015, employers with California employees will be required to comply with that state’s new paid sick leave law, the Healthy Workplace, Healthy Family Act of 2014.   

key provisions of this new law include: 

Subject to certain narrow exceptions, all employees (including part-time, temporary, seasonal and exempt workers) who have worked in California for at least 30 days within a year are covered.

Covered employees are entitled to accrue paid sick leave at a rate of at least one hour for every 30 hours worked. All unused sick leave must be carried over from year to year, but the accrual may be capped at six days (48 hours). Employers who choose not to permit covered employees to accrue sick leave at the required rate must provide them with at least three days (24 hours) of paid sick leave “up front” each year.  

Use of Leave
Employees may use accrued paid sick days beginning on the 90th day of employment. Employers generally are prohibited from denying employees the right to use accrued paid sick leave. However, employers may limit the use of paid sick leave to three days (24 hours) in each year. Employers also may set reasonable minimum increments (of no more than two hours) for use of paid sick leave and may require employees to provide reasonable advance notice for foreseeable leave or, if not foreseeable, as soon as practicable. 

Paid sick leave can be used for the diagnosis, care or treatment of an existing health condition of, or preventive care for, an employee or employee’s family member (child, parent or parent of a spouse or domestic partner, spouse, registered domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild or sibling). Paid sick leave may also be used for additional specified purposes if the employee is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.  

Existing Policies
The law establishes a minimum entitlement to paid sick leave. Employers are permitted to provide sick leave through their own PTO plan or policy, as long as the policy satisfies the law’s leave and accrual requirements or otherwise provides employees with at least three days (24 hours) of paid sick leave per year. 

Notice to Employees
As of January 1, 2015, employers are required to post a notice of employees' rights under the law. Employers also must provide certain written notices to employees of the new paid sick leave law and the amount of leave available to them, including the information on pay stubs or a document issued the same day as a paycheck showing the available sick leave. 

No Retaliation
Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees for using or attempting to use accrued sick leave, filing a complaint alleging a violation of the law, cooperating in an investigation or prosecution of an alleged violation of the law, or opposing a policy, practice or act prohibited by the law. 

Employers must keep records of the hours worked and sick leave accrued for employees for a period of three years. Such records must be made available for inspection by the Labor Commissioner and the employee. 

In addition to California, Connecticut and Massachusetts (and a number of municipalities in these states and others) have enacted laws entitling employees to paid sick leave. Connecticut’s Paid Sick Leave Act, effective since 2012 (recently amended), requires certain larger employers in that state to permit specified “service workers” to accrue and use paid sick leave. Massachusetts’ Earned Sick Time Law becomes effective July 1, 2015, entitling employees in that state to earn and use sick leave in accordance with certain conditions. However, Massachusetts employers who have certain types of sick leave or PTO policies and who meet other specified requirements may take advantage of a “safe harbor” until January 1, 2016. Effective January 1, 2016, Oregon will become the fourth state to mandate paid sick leave benefits for employees. 

These new laws will affect a significant number of employers and employees across the country. Employers should familiarize themselves with the laws applicable to their organization and take steps to ensure compliance. This will include reviewing existing sick leave and PTO policies (or implementing new ones), adhering to recordkeeping requirements and confirming that all applicable notices have been provided to employees. 

More information regarding California’s Healthy Workplace, Healthy Family Act of 2014 may be found on the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement’s website. Information regarding Connecticut’s Paid Sick Leave Act may be found on the Connecticut Department of Labor’s website. Information regarding Massachusetts’ Earned Sick Time Law may be found on the Massachusetts Attorney General’s website. 


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