California Expands COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave

Earlier this year, Governor Newsom signed Executive Order N-51-20, which we discuss in our blog here. The order provided paid sick leave for food sector workers at large employers (over 500 employees). On September 9, 2020, Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1867, which, among other things, codifies the executive order’s language, with some modifications, creating new California Labor Code §248. The bill also provides paid sick leave requirements for other large employers, creating a new California Labor Code §248.1.

Like Executive Order N-51-20, Labor Code §248 provides paid sick leave for food sector workers who work for an employer with 500 or more employees. These workers may receive up to 80 hours of paid sick leave if they are unable to work for one of the three following qualifying reasons: (1) The food sector worker is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19; (2) The food sector worker is advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine or self-isolate due to concerns related to COVID-19; or (3) The food sector worker is prohibited from working by the food sector worker’s hiring entity due to health concerns related to the potential transmission of COVID-19. The law will apply until December 31, 2020 or the end date for benefits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act’s (“FFCRA”), whichever is later.

With respect to Labor Code §248.1, it provides for paid sick leave to other private hiring entities with 500 or more employees. Except for food sector workers covered under Labor Code §248, this section covers all other employees, including healthcare providers and emergency responders (who may be excluded under the FFCRA). Employees may use paid sick leave for the same reasons identified above under Labor Code §248. Notably, paid sick leave under Labor Code §248.1 must be provided in addition to any paid sick leave available to a worker under California’s pre-COVID-19 Healthy Workplaces, Health Families Act of 2015 (“HWHFA”), which already requires at least three days of paid sick leave. Further, Labor Code §248.1 prohibits employers from requiring its workers to use other paid or unpaid leave, time off, or vacation time that the employer provides before, or in lieu of, using paid leave under Labor Code §248.1. Employers are also required to itemize the amount of leave available on employees’ itemized wage statements.

Moreover, under the new laws, employers cannot require, as a condition of using leave, that workers search for or find replacement workers to cover the days they use leave. Similarly, a subject employer cannot deny a worker the right to use leave, discharge, threaten to discharge, demote, suspend, or in any manner discriminate against a worker for using leave, attempting to exercise the right to use leave, filing a complaint with the Labor Commissioner, cooperating in an investigation of an alleged violation of the laws, and/or for opposing any policy, practice, or act that the laws prohibit.

Finally, AB 1867 added Government Code §113963, which allows food sector worker employees permission to wash their hands every 30 minutes and additionally as needed.

If you feel your employer has violated your paid leave rights, you may be able to hold the company accountable for damages and penalties. For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation with an attorney who can help, contact Haeggquist & Eck, LLP online or call us at (619) 468-5222.

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