It is that time of the year again, when the California legislature and governor come together to sign new laws into effect for the coming calendar year. Employment laws are always a focal point of the ever-changing legal landscape. This year, the new law that impacts nearly all employers that operate in California is a change to the paid sick time rules.
Since 2014, California has had a required sick time law in place that affects all employers in the state, known as the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act. In general, employes must provide paid sick time to all employees for certain health and wellness purposes if the employee works in California for the same employer for 30 or more days within a year from the commencement of employment (with a few exceptions). While there are a few options about how to provide the sick time, the current baseline is that leave accrues at a rate of no less than one hour for every 30 hours worked, to be available for use beginning on the 90th day of employment. Current law allows employers to cap the maximum accrual of paid sick time at 48 hours.
This law has also been impacted by various local City laws that often create higher maximum accrual amounts or allow fewer restrictions on the accrual or use of the sick time. For example, San Franciso’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance mandates that employers with 10 or more employees may cap an employee’s sick time balance at 72 hours, not the lower state threshold. The SF PSLO also allows employees to use more than the 3 days per year that employers to which employers may limit employees under state law.
However, this coming year, California will raise the bar in a few ways by amending the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act.
First, the new law increases the sick leave accrual rate to 40 hours or 5 days in each year of employment, beginning January 1, 2024, up from the current 24 hours or 3 days in each year of employment.
For employers that utilize alternate, paid-time-off policies to cover the sick leave requirements, this law will change the conditions so that employees must be eligible to earn at least 5 days or 40 hours of sick leave or paid time off within 6 months of employment.
Second, the new law raises the employer’s authorized limitation on the use of carryover sick leave to 40 hours or 5 days in each year of employment, rather than the current 24 hours or 3 days. Existing law requires accrued paid sick days to carry over to the following year of employment.
Next, under existing law, an employer has no obligation to allow an employee’s total accrual of paid sick leave to exceed 48 hours or 6 days, provided that an employee’s rights to accrue and use paid sick leave are not otherwise limited. The new law will increase those accrual thresholds for paid sick leave to 80 hours or 10 days.
Additionally, some employers utilize alternative accrual methods and other avenues for complying with the law that are allowed under the provisions of the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act. The new law will modify any employer’s alternate sick leave accrual method to additionally require that an employee have no less than 40 hours of accrued sick leave or paid time off by the 200th calendar day of employment or each calendar year, or in each 12-month period. The law will also modify the applicable provisions to authorize an employer to satisfy accrual requirements by providing, in addition to the existing criteria for satisfaction above, not less than 40 hours or 5 days of paid sick leave that is available to the employee to use by the completion of the employee’s 200th calendar day of employment.
Finally, the current Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act sets forth provisions on, among other things, compensation for accrued, unused paid sick days upon specified employment events, the lending of paid sick days to employees, written notice requirements, the calculation of paid sick leave, reasonable advance notification requirements, and payment of sick leave taken. The new law will provide that these provisions shall preempt any local ordinance to the contrary.
Sean Gentry is the employment law partner at Ad Astra Law Group, LLP. Click here to read Sean’s full bio.