Question:  I recently heard that there is a new law requiring paid sick leave. When does it go into effect?


Answer:  On September 10, 2014, Governor Brown signed the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, to provide paid sick leave for California employees. This new law is effective on July 1, 2015 and makes California the second state to mandate paid sick leave for employees—Connecticut’s 2011 paid sick leave law was the first.
Under Assembly Bill 1522, which will apply to most California employers regardless of size, all employees working in California for 30 or more days within a year from the start of employment will be entitled to accrue paid sick leave unless one of the following narrow exceptions apply: they are covered by collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) with certain provisions, are construction industry employees covered by a CBA with certain provisions, are providers of in-home supportive services, or are employed in the airline industry in certain positions. Accrued sick leave may be used upon the oral or written request of the employee for the diagnosis, care or treatment of an existing health condition of, or preventative care for, an employee or an employee’s “family member,” or for an employee who is the victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. “Family member” under AB 1522 is defined more broadly than under the Family and Medical Leave Act or the California Family Rights Act to include an employee’s grandparent, grandchild or sibling.
Under the new law, paid sick leave must accrue at a rate of not less than one hour for every 30 hours worked, and employees are entitled to use the accrued leave beginning after the 90th day of employment. All accrued but unused sick leave must be carried over to the following year of employment unless the full amount of leave is provided to the employee at the beginning of each year. Moreover, an employer may limit an employee’s use of paid sick days to 24 hours or three days in each year of employment. Employers are permitted to cap sick leave accruals at 48 hours or six days. Although there is no requirement that accrued but unused sick leave be paid out when the employment relationship ends, if the employee is rehired within one year, he/she is entitled to the previously accrued and unused paid sick days.
Employers who have existing paid leave or paid time off policies may satisfy the new law’s requirements as long as the existing paid leave policy or paid time off policy makes available an amount of leave that may be used for the same purposes and under the same conditions as specified in the law. Existing policies must also satisfy either the accrual, carryover, and use requirements of the statute, or provide no less than 24 hours of paid sick leave, or equivalent paid leave or paid time off, for employee use during each year of employment, calendar year, or 12-month basis. If existing policies do not meet these requirements they will need to be revised.
The law places new posting and recordkeeping requirements on employers. Employers are encouraged to review the law and contact experienced counsel for compliance counseling before the July 1, 2015 effective date.