To provide clarity to California employers and employees, the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) issued FAQs regarding the enforcement of paid sick leave, employers’ ability to request documentation from employees, and compensation. The DIR clarified that employees may use their available paid sick leave for preventative care, such as “self-quarantine as a result of potential exposure to COVID-19 if quarantine is recommended by civil authorities,” and for “other situations where an employee may exercise their right to take paid sick leave, or an employer may allow paid sick leave for preventative care.” Employers must keep in mind that they cannot force an employee to use paid leave, as it is employees’ choice whether to use their available sick leave. The DIR also reminded employees that if they exhaust their available sick leave time, they can use their available vacation or paid time off to cover their absence(s).
For employees, who exhaust their sick leave, vacation and PTO, and work for employers with 25 or more employees, such employees may take school-related activities leave for up to 40 hours per year, in part, for school emergency, that includes the “closure or unexpected unavailability of the school or child care provided, excluding planned holidays.” Whether an employee will be paid for such leave will depend on their employer’s leave policy.
The DIR also confirmed that reporting time pay does apply during a state of emergency, provided that the state of emergency does not include a recommendation to cease operations in the state.
To help essential food-sector workers, on April 16, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order, granting two weeks of supplemental paid sick leave to essential food-sector employees, and requiring more frequent handwashing at food facilities.
Additionally, the Mayors of Los Angeles, San Jose and San Francisco have adopted temporary paid sick leave laws, requiring certain employers exempt from the FFCRA to provide such leave to workers in those localities. See this comprehensive California-specific Engage Client Alert for details.
Update - September 9, 2020
On September 9, 2020, Governor Newsome signed into law COVID-19 related Assembly Bill 1867 (link here). In addition to codifying the required for food employees working in food facilities to wash their hands every thirty (30) minutes and additionally as needed, the new law codifies the Governor’s Executive Order (“EO”) N-51-20 that addresses COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave for eligible food sector workers. Click here to view Engage’s April 29, 2020 Client Alert that discusses, in part, the EO N-51-20.
Per the new law, if an employer provided an eligible food sector employee with the equivalent amount of supplemental COVID paid sick leave prior to the enactment of the law on September 9, 2020, the employer is not required to provide additional COVID-19 supplemental leave pursuant to the new law. Notably, the new law states that (1) the requirement to provide eligible food sector workers with COVID supplemental paid sick leave applies retroactively to April 16, 2020 and will expire on either December 31, 2020 or upon the expiration of any extension of the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), whichever is later; and (2) a food sector worker is entitled to continue their COVID supplemental paid sick leave after the expiration of the new law if the worker was on such leave at the time of the expiration.
Additionally, similar to the various California counties in the Spring of 2020, the new statewide law expands the availability of COVID-related paid sick leave pursuant to the FFCRA to eligible non-food-sector workers, who leave their homes or place of residence, to work for a California employer with 500 or more employees in the United States, the District of Columbia, or any U.S. territory. Like the FFCRA, eligible full-time employees can use up to 80 hours of COVID supplemental paid sick leave. If the worker is not a full-time employee or firefighter, the eligible worker’s leave hours will be determined per one of the two methods described below:
- If the eligible employee works a normal schedule, the employee will be eligible for supplemental paid sick leave in the amount of the total number of hours the worker normally is scheduled to work over a two-week period; or
- If the eligible employee works varying schedules, the employee will be entitled to supplemental paid sick leave in the amount of “14 times the average number of hours the covered worker worked each day for the [employer] in the six months preceding the date the covered worker took COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave. If the covered worker has worked for the [employer] over a period of fewer than six months but more than 14 days, this calculation shall instead be made over the entire period the covered worker has worked for the [employer].”
For covered employers of non-food-sector workers, beginning the first full pay period after the September 9, 2020 enactment of the new law, the employers must provide eligible employees of the amount of COVID supplemental paid sick leave available on their itemized wage statements or on a separate writing provided to the employee on the designated pay date.
Of importance, the non-food-sector-worker statewide COVID supplemental paid sick leave requirement applies to any entity, including public entities, employing health care providers and emergency responders, as defined by federal regulations but who elected to exclude health care providers and emergency responders From emergency paid sick leave per the FFCRA. The non-food-sector-worker COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave is scheduled to take effect 10 days after the law’s September 9, 2020 enactment and expire on December 31, 2020 or with the expiration of any extension of the FFCRA.
Please note that the new California statewide COVID supplemental paid sick leave is in addition regular paid sick leave provided pursuant to the California mandated regular sick leave pursuant to the California Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act of 2014, and covered employers must retain records documenting the statewide COVID supplemental paid sick leave for at least three years.
ADDITIONAL CALIFORNIA ALERTS TO NOTE: