If you live or work in California, you have no doubt heard about the mandatory paid sick leave law passed by the State Legislature. On July 1, 2015, California became one of only four states with this progressive employment right for workers.
To be eligible, a worker must work for at least 30 days for the same employer within a one-year period of his or her start date. Because the new law went into effect at the beginning of July, most employees started to accrue this leave on July 1; however, an employee who switched jobs or began a new job after this date will begin to earn leave on his or her start date. The law even covers temporary, seasonal, and part-time workers, as long as they meet these basic requirements. The sick pay is at regular hour rates and is not credited toward calculation of hours for purposes of overtime pay.
Once these core requirements are met, an employee is entitled to earn at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours he or she works. An employer may use an alternative method of leave accrual as long as accrual occurs on a regular basis and at least 24 hours of sick leave are available for the employee’s use by the end of his or her first 120 days on the job.
The drafting of the original law led to some confusion by employers about the rate at which the sick leave would be paid, when taken. This was particularly true in situations when wage rates varied, due to issues such as overtime, commissions, and piece rates. Fortunately, a new bill was signed into law that provides some flexibility in these situations. Under the new law, employers may calculate the sick leave benefit in the same manner as other paid leave that they grant to their employees.
The Act provides that employees may begin to take their accrued sick leave starting on their 90th day of work. Although employers generally cannot deny this right, they may limit the total amount of sick leave taken in any given year to three days or less. They may also choose to set reasonable minimum increments for leave to be taken; to be provided advance notice, when possible; and to require notice as soon as practicable when it was not foreseeable to be given in advance.
The Act allows employees to carry over unused paid sick leave from year to year; however, the accrual of leave may be capped at 48 hours. If an employer decides not to permit accrual at the required rate, it must provide at least three days of paid sick leave at the beginning of every year.
Employees should familiarize themselves with the basics of this new benefit and consult with experienced legal counsel when necessary to protect their rights.
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