California Paid Sick Leave

At the eleventh hour, the California legislature, poised to adjourn for final recess on August 31, passed multiple leave-related bills with big absence management implications for California employers. In this three-part blog, we first explore the new statewide paid sick leave mandate that requires emergency paid leave be provided to many California employees who fall outside the coverage of the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Next, we analyze the marked expansion of the California Family Rights Act and the repeal of the New Parent Leave Act set to take effect on January 1, 2021. Finally, we highlight amendments to the Kin Care law and the California law governing leave for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

Grab your employee handbook and a fresh red pen because. . . we’re not in Kansas anymore! We’re in California.

Part 1: COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Mandate In California

On September 9, 2020, Governor Newsom signed into law AB 1867, which creates new COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave obligations for some employers and codifies existing supplemental paid sick leave requirements for food sector workers previously established via executive order on April 16, 2020.

Eligibility and Entitlement

California employees eligible to receive (non-food sector worker) supplemental paid sick leave under the new law include:

  • An employee of a business that has five hundred or more employees in the United States; or
  • An employee who is a health care provider or emergency responder as defined under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) whose employer is covered by the FFCRA but has elected to exclude the employee from receiving emergency paid sick leave under the FFCRA ; and
  • The employee must leave the employee’s place of residence to perform work for the employer.

An eligible full-time employee is entitled to 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave that can be used when the employee is unable to work because:

  • The employee is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  • The employee is advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine or self-isolate due to concerns related to COVID-19; or
  • The employee is prohibited from working by the employer due to health concerns related to the potential transmission of COVID-19.

The amount of leave available varies if the employee is part-time, works a variable schedule, has worked for the employer for fewer than six months, or is an active firefighter, so employers should work closely with their employment counsel to ensure leave entitlements are calculated correctly depending on the employee’s circumstances.

Pay Rate and Use of Other Leave

When employees (with the exception of firefighters) use COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave, they must be paid the highest of their regular rate of pay for the most recent pay period or the state or local minimum wage. The total amount of pay for an employee’s supplemental paid sick leave is capped at $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate.

Employees cannot be required to use any other paid time off, vacation time, unpaid leave, or state disability insurance benefits prior to the employee’s use of supplemental paid sick leave. However, employers that previously provided an employee with COVID-19-related paid leave for a reason covered under the new supplemental paid sick leave law may be entitled to offset the previously provided leave.

Employer Notification Obligations in California

Employers must post notice of employee rights under the new law at their workplace or provide it electronically to employees. Employers must also provide employees with written notice of the amount of supplemental paid sick leave available to them on the employees’ wage statements or in a separate writing on designated pay dates.

The California Labor Commissioner released model posters/notices for employers to use to inform their workforce about the new COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave requirements. The Labor Commissioner also published FAQs related to the law.  Employers with questions about the supplemental paid sick leave available to food sector workers ranging from farmworkers to workers in the retail food supply chain – which is largely in line with the requirements for non-food sector worker supplemental paid leave – can reference the Labor Commissioner’s FAQ#1 and workplace poster: CA COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave for Food Sector Workers for detailed information.

Effective Dates

California employers must provide COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave to eligible non-food sector workers beginning September 19, 2020. The food sector worker supplemental paid sick leave requirements, on the other hand, are retroactive to April 16, 2020. Leave provided pursuant to the Governor’s April 16, 2020 executive order covering food sector workers can be credited towards an employer’s obligation under AB 1867. The COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave law – including the provisions applicable to food sector workers – sunsets after December 31, 2020, or when the FFCRA’s emergency paid sick leave requirements expire, if that is later.

What ReedGroup Is Doing

ReedGroup does not administer paid sick leave laws for most clients, but we monitor changes to these laws to keep our clients well informed. Clients with questions about how this new law interacts with leaves and benefits administered by ReedGroup should reach out to their account executives. Visit ReedGroup’s Coronavirus Resource Center and subscribe to our blog to stay up-to-date on leave-related developments.


Information provided on this blog is intended for general educational use. It is not intended to provide legal advice. ReedGroup does not provide legal services. Consult an attorney for legal advice on this or any other topic.

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