Landmark New Law in California Provides All Employees with Paid Sick Leave

Governor Brown recently signed into law the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, which for the first time in this state’s history will provide paid sick leave to nearly all employees across the state.  The law takes effect on July 1, 2015.

Under this law, employees will be entitled to accrue paid sick time at a rate of no less than one hour of sick time for every 30 hours of time worked.  This accrual rate is equivalent to accruing one 8-hour day of sick time for every six weeks worked (at 40 hours per week).  Current employees will start accruing paid sick leave on July 1, 2015, or, for employees that begin work after July 1, 2015, on their first day of work.  The employer must allow the employee to take paid sick leave starting on the employee’s 90th day of employment.  Sick leave must be paid at the employee’s regular pay rate; for example, an employee who typically works eight hours per day at an hourly rate of $12 must be paid $96 (8 hours x $12) for a full-day of paid sick leave.

According to this new law, employees will be entitled to carry over accrued paid sick leave to the following year.  In addition, if an employee separates from an employer and is rehired by the same employer within one year, the employee will retain his or her accrued paid sick days.

This law covers essentially all employees in California who work at least 30 days in one year for an employer.  However, some employees who are represented by unions may be excluded from this law.  Employees represented by unions should check with their union representatives to see if this law applies to them.

This law also provides protections to employees who speak up about and exercise their right to paid sick leave.  Employers are prohibited from denying an employee use of paid sick leave, as well as discriminating against or firing an employee, because the employee attempts to use paid sick leave or files a related complaint.

The purpose of the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, according to the California Legislature, is multi-fold:  to ensure that employees in California can care for their own health and the health of their family members; to decrease healthcare costs because employees will now be more able to treat illnesses early on; to protect employees from workplace retaliation; and to better protect victims of domestic violence.  Lower-income employees, in particular, are less likely to have paid sick days available.  Yet the need to care for oneself and one’s family is a universal need.  Therefore, this new law is a welcomed step in the right direction to better protect the health and wellbeing of all employees throughout California.