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Are you ready for California’s new paid sick leave law?

John Viola March 19, 2015

Effective July 1, 2015, California's new mandatory paid sick leave law requires virtually all employers to provide workers a minimum of three days of paid sick leave per year. And, beginning January 1, 2015, a poster explaining the new law must be displayed in a conspicuous place at all work sites. (A poster template is available here.)

All California employers regardless of size are covered under the new law. There is no exemption for small employers. The mandatory paid sick leave law applies to every California employer, even if the employer only has one employee.

On the July 1, 2015, effective date, employees will earn at least one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked. All full- and part-time California employees who work for 30 or more days in a year are eligible to receive sick pay.

Here are some frequently asked questions about California’s Sick Leave Law:

How can the sick leave be used?
Employees can use mandatory sick leave for their own illness, illness of family members, and for doctor appointments.

What are an employer’s obligations?
Employers must notify employees every pay period of their paid sick leave balances and separately track each employee's sick leave accrual and use. There is no requirement to compensate terminating employees for their unused accrued sick leave.

How much discretion do employers have in implementing the new mandatory sick leave law?
Employers have the option to implement workplace policies limiting their employees' maximum accrual and year-to-year carryover of sick leave. An employer must allow accrued paid sick leave to roll over to the next year. Still, no accrual is required if the employer provides the full amount of sick leave at the beginning of each year, allowing the employee to take sick leave before he or she would otherwise have accrued it. An employer can limit an employee’s accrual of paid sick leave to a total of 48 hours, or six days.

What happens when an employer has its own Paid Time Off (PTO) plan?
The new law establishes a minimum requirement, but an employer can provide sick leave through its own plan or establish different plans for different categories of workers. However, each plan must satisfy the accrual, carryover, and use requirements of the law or put the full amount of leave into an employee's leave bank at the beginning of each year in accordance with the PTO policy. If an employer provides a policy which exceeds the minimum requirements, including providing a specific cap, the policy must be clear as to the additional terms that apply to its employees.

My company provides paid time off that employees can use for vacation or illness. Will we have to provide additional sick leave?
No, as long as the employer provides at least 24 hours per year of paid leave that can be used for sick leave and meets other requirements in the law.

John Viola is a Los Angeles partner with Thompson Coburn’s Labor & Employment group. For more than 35 years, he has defended companies facing claims of discrimination, harassment, wrongful discharge, and retaliation in state, federal, and appellate courts across the country.