California Sick Leave Labor Law

Your Employee Rights To Sick Leave

CA LABOR LAWS

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California mandates that employers provide paid sick leave to employees. It is codified in the law, known as the Healthy Workplace, Healthy Family Act of 2014, it applies to all employers regardless of their size.

Eligibility for paid sick leave in California

Employees who work at least 30 days in a year are eligible to receive paid sick leave. Employees can begin using accrued sick leave once they have worked for an employer for 90 days. There are a few classes of employees that are excluded from these mandates.

Employees accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Paid sick leave must carry over from year to year, but employers can place a cap on accrual of 48 hours (or six days).

Employers do not need to pay out accrued sick leave when an employee leaves the company. If an employee is rehired within one year, accrued sick leave must be reinstated.

Employers must display a sick pay poster displayed in a conspicuous place.

In addition, employers have recordkeeping requirements under the paid sick leave law. Employers must record the amount of available sick leave on each paystub), and employers must keep records of sick leave accrual and use for three years.

Employers are not allowed to retaliate against an employee for using sick leave, or deny an employee’s valid request to use sick leave. 

California’s paid-sick-leave law includes the following basic requirements:

  • Covered employees include full-time, part-time, temporary, or seasonal workers who work in California for 30 or more days in a 12-month period for the same employer. 

  • Covered employees must accrue at least one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Alternative accrual methods are acceptable if they comply with the law.  
  • An employer may limit the amount of paid sick leave an employee can use in one year to 24 hours or three days.  

  • An employer must allow accrued unused paid sick leave to be carried over to the next year, but a cap on carryover hours of no less than 48 hours or six days is permitted. Lump-sum policies are not required to allow a carryover.

California Labor Law Sick Days: How Much Time Can I Take

Full Time

Since 2014, the Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act of 2014 (HWHFA) has required employers to provide paid sick leave to all employees who work for 30 or more days within a 12-month period.

California law requires employers to provide at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. For full-time workers, this works out to at least three days of paid sick leave per year. Your employer must allow you to use at least three days of paid sick leave per year. You must be allowed to roll over accrued but unused sick leave into the following year, although your employer can cap the amount of paid sick leave you can rollover at 48 hours, or six days.

If you work in one of the many cities or counties with laws providing additional paid sick leave, you may be entitled to more paid time off. For example, you may have the right to additional paid sick time if you work in the following places:

Los Angeles: 48 hours a year or 6 days paid sick leave

Santa Monica: 40 hours per year (for smaller employers) and 72 hours per year (for larger employers)

Emeryville: 48 hours a year (for smaller employers) and 72 hours a year (for larger employers)

Oakland: 40 hours a year (for smaller employers) and 72 hours a year (for larger employers)

San Francisco: 48 hours a year (for smaller employers) and 72 hours a year (for larger employers)

Many employers choose to “front load” paid sick leave and make available all three days of paid sick leave on a certain date in each calendar year. An example would be if your employer adds three days of paid sick leave to your first paycheck of the year. However, this is not required, and your employer can accrue paid sick leave over the course of the year.

Employers are also allowed to impose a waiting period of up to 90 days to use your paid sick leave.

Part Time

Employees, including part-time and temporary employees, earn at least one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked. Sick time is paid at the employee’s current rate of pay. Unused, accrued paid sick leave must be carried over to the following year and may be capped at 48 hours, based on the employer’s policy.

Can I used Paid Sick Leave to Care for Family Members?

Employees are entitled to a total of 12 weeks of sick leave each leave year to care for a family member with a serious health condition, which includes 13 days of sick leave for general family care or bereavement purposes. If the employee previously has used any portion of the 13 days of sick leave for general family care or bereavement purposes in a leave year, that amount must be subtracted from the 12-week entitlement. If an employee has already used 12 weeks of sick leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition, he or she cannot use an additional 13 days in the same leave year for general family care purposes. An employee is entitled to no more than a combined total of 12 weeks of sick leave each leave year for all family care purposes.

Definition of Family Member

The definition of family member covers a wide range of relationships, including spouse; parents; parents-in-law; children; brothers; sisters; grandparents; grandchildren; step parents; step children; foster parents; foster children; guardianship relationships; same sex and opposite sex domestic partners; and spouses or domestic partners of the aforementioned, as applicable.

What Qualifies as Sick Leave

California employees can take paid sick leave to care for themselves and also for;

  • Child(ren), stepchild(ren), or adopted child(ren);
  • Spouse & domestic-partner;
  • Siblings
  • Parents and Grandparents
  • Grandchild

Employees may also use sick leave to care for themselves or a family member in seeking a diagnosis, care, or treatment of an existing health condition, or for preventive care.

If an employee is a victim of domestic violence, or stalking they can use sick leave to:

  • Medical attention 
  • Restraining orders
  • Services from a domestic violence shelter or rape crisis centers
  • Psychiatric or psychological  counseling

Can My Sick Leave Be Denied?

In general, if an employee has accrued sick days available, an employer may not deny the employee the right to use those accrued paid sick days, including the right to use paid sick leave for a partial day (e.g., to attend a doctor’s appointment), and may not discipline the employee for doing so.

Many employers have attendance policies under which employees may be given an “occurrence” or similar negative personnel action if the employee has an unscheduled absence or provides insufficient notice of an absence.  Under the terms of the paid sick leave law (and Labor Code sections 233 and 234), if an employee has accrued and available sick leave, and is using his or her accrued paid sick leave for a purpose as specified in the law, it is not permissible for an employer to give the employee an “occurrence” for the absence under such an attendance policy because this would constitute a form of discipline against an employee for using his or her paid sick leave as allowed under the paid sick leave law. 

The paid sick leave law does not “protect” all time off taken by an employee for illness or related purposes; it “protects” only an employee’s accrued and available paid sick leave as specified in the statute. If an employee has no accrued or available paid sick leave and violates the employer’s attendance policy, the paid sick leave doesn’t prohibit the employer from issuing the employee a “write up” for such an absence. 

Similarly, if an employee has an absence that would otherwise violate the employer’s attendance policy, and if the absence was for a reason not covered under the paid sick leave law, the employer is not required to allow the employee to use paid sick leave for that absence, and it is not a violation of the law for the employer to give an “occurrence” for such absence.

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