The legislative season has just ended and for the next several weeks, I will provide an overview of several of these new laws to help inform readers of their new legal rights. This week, I will write about the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014.
On Sept. 10, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 1422, sponsored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego. AB 1422 mandates that California employers provide paid sick leave for employees to use. San Francisco's Paid Sick Leave Ordinance provides for more sick time than the state law and is unaffected by its passage.
If you live in San Francisco, you can look at earlier articles I have written on the San Francisco Paid Sick Leave Ordinance. If you are outside of San Francisco you now have a little more than half of the rights San Franciscans have.
Starting on July 15, any worker who works at least 30 days in within a year of commencement of employment is now entitled to accrue paid sick leave at the rate of not less than one hour per every 30 hours worked. This includes administrative, executive or professional employees who are exempt from overtime. Their accrual is based on a calculation of exempt employees based on a 40-hour workweek. Sick days begin accumulating after 90 days of employment. While unused sick days can carry over into the next year of employment, the law permits an employer to cap and employees use of sick leave at 24 hours or three days for each year of employment (San Francisco provides five days, or 40 hours).
If the full amount of leave is given at the beginning of the year, no accrual or carryover is required. If an employer already has a paid time off policy or sick leave policy that is at least equal to that required under the law, the employer is not required to provide additional time off. Employers are allowed to lend employees advance sick leave to employees. If there is an unused balance of sick days at the point of resignation or termination the employer is not required to cash-out an employee for the value of those unused days.
An employee can use their paid sick leave for the diagnosis, care, or treatment of an existing health condition or to obtain preventative care for the worker or a family member. Likewise, an employee may use their leave if they are a victim of stalking, domestic violence or sexual assault. An employer can't deny an employee the right to use accrued sick days or discharge, threaten to discharge, demote, suspend or in any manner discriminate against an employee for using accrued sick days, attempting to exercise the right to use accrued sick days, filing a complaint or alleging a violation of the law, cooperating in an investigation or prosecution of an alleged violation of this legislation, or opposing any policy or practice or act that is prohibited by this law. The anti-retaliation clause has teeth providing for a rebuttable presumption that retaliation has occurred if an employer denies leave, demotes, discharges, or threatens to discharge the employee within 30 days of filing a complaint with the labor commissioner, alleging a violation of the law, cooperating with an investigation or opposing any practice or act prohibited by the law.
Employees covered under a union collective bargaining agreement or employed by any state, county, city or special district are not covered by this law.
An aggrieved worker need not hire a lawyer to get a remedy for a violation of the statute, they may file a complaint directly with the labor commissioner, who has the right to award a penalty equal to the value of the withheld sick leave days times three or $250, whichever is greater so long as that penalty does not to exceed $4,000. Additionally, employees who are terminated because of exercising their rights under the statute may have an independent civil right for wrongful termination in violation of public policy, a civil remedy, often advanced with the help of a trial lawyer, in the Superior Court of the county in which you worked (or where the business has its principal place of business).
Christopher B. Dolan is owner of the Dolan Law Firm. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.