One of the benefits of employment in California is the accrual of sick leave. Because of this benefit, employees can take time off work without penalty when they are feeling sick. Not only is this helpful in recovery, but it reduces the risk of exposure to others. Under this benefit, employees are granted one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. However, employers are allowed to “cap” the benefit’s usage at 24 hours or three days annually, whichever is greater.
However, with the recent pandemic, there have been temporary adjustments made to the law to accommodate the needs of employees and the needs of the community. Through December 31, 2022, employers with more than 26 employees must also provide its employees with a COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave consisting of two work weeks or 80 hours. The purpose of this time is to:
- Recover from COVID-19.
- Visit a healthcare provider after experiencing COVID-19 symptoms for any further medical diagnosis.
- Self-quarantine under the direction of state, local, or medical advice.
- Care for another family member who is self-quarantining.
- Provide care for a dependent minor whose school or daycare has closed.
- Receive a vaccine for COVID-19.
Under California law, employers must provide sick leave to an employee and may not retaliate against any employee who uses this benefit. If they deny these rights, an employee may have grounds to file a lawsuit for violations of labor laws.
Most employees qualify for this benefit if they work 30 or more days in a calendar year. This includes exempt and nonexempt employees that are full-time, part-time, or temporary. However, restrictions are placed on employees who work in specific sectors, such as:
- Federal employees
- Certain state and local employees
- Those employed with a collective bargaining agreement
- Service providers whose duties are in-home support
- Some employees of air carriers
Taking Sick Time
As mentioned, employees can accrue sick time at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, with full-time employees earning 24 hours, or three days, in every 12-month period. This law governs the entire state, but there are some places where local ordinances provide additional sick leave benefits to employees. Cities that have differing ordinances include:
- Berkeley and Santa Monica. Both city ordinances are dictated by the number of employees. If there are 25 or more employees, they are required to offer 72 hours of personal sick leave. If there are fewer than 25, the number drops to 48 hours.
- Los Angeles. In LA, employers offer up to 48 hours or 6 days.
- Oakland and San Francisco. In both places, the benefit is also determined by the number of employees, with the divide at 10. If there are more than 10 employees, then employers must offer 72 hours per year. If there are fewer than 10, then they must offer 40 hours per year.
Compensation for Sick Leave
When an employee uses their personal sick leave, they are entitled to their regular rate of pay. If the sick leave is COVID-19 related, there is a differential. The benefit for exempt employees is that they receive their regular rate. Non-exempt employees will receive their regular rate, the average pay over a 90-day period, or the state or local minimum wage, whichever is highest.
Filing a Civil Claim
In circumstances where an employee feels they have been denied their right to the benefit, or an employer has failed to pay an employee for using their benefit, an employee may file a claim against their employer for violating sick leave policies. Additionally, an employer may not retaliate against an employee for taking valid leave or for cooperating with or filing any type of civil suit.
It is important to understand that if you exhaust your benefits and take sick leave, there is an understanding that this is unpaid unless noted in any company policy or agreement made between the employee and employer. In these circumstances, a claim cannot be filed as there were no violations committed by the employer.
Q: How Many Sick Days Am I Entitled to in California?
A: Whether you are full-time, part-time, or a temporary employee, an employer must offer you 1 hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Under the law, you may accrue up to 6 days per year of sick leave but may not use more than 3 consecutively. However, anything beyond these minimums can be offered by the employer but must be made clear at the time of hiring or notification given to employees.
Q: How Do I Calculate How Many Sick Days I Have?
A: Your available personal sick leave, in many cases, is reported to you with your paycheck during each pay cycle. This should include noting both when sick leave is used and when it is accumulated. If your sick leave is not reported on your paycheck, your employer must have a clear policy in place for you to monitor your benefit.
Q: Do I Get Paid for Unused Sick Days in California?
A: Any unused personal sick leave that is accumulated by the end of the year must be carried over to the next year. However, this may be capped at 48 hours depending on the employer’s policy. Employers, though, are not required to pay out the accrued time if an employee is terminated, resigns, or retires unless it is explicitly stated.
Q: Is PTO the Same as Sick Leave in California?
A: In most cases, no. Sick leave and personal leave are separate. However, California does allow some companies to have “grandfathered” policies in which the two are combined into one pot. Understanding your company’s policy at the time you are hired can save you from potential headaches later.
California Labor Laws
If you have questions about your personal sick leave or labor laws, our lawyers at the Law Offices of Corbett H. Williams are here to help. Contact us today and we can help you make sure that your employee rights are protected or help you identify any next steps you should take.