California’s Historic Adoption of Paid Sick Leave – AB 1522

Posted on September 11, 2014

By: Allyson K. Thompson

On September 10, 2014, Governor Brown signed AB 1522 otherwise known as the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014.

Specifically, the Act amends Labor Code § 2810.5 to provide that an employee who, on or after July 1, 2015, works in California for 30-days or more within a year from the commencement of employment is entitled to paid sick days to be accrued at a rate of no less than one hour for every 30 hours worked. The employee is entitled to use accrued sick days after the 91st day of employment, typically the end of the Introductory Period. The Act authorizes an employer to limit an employee's use of paid sick days to 24 hours or 3 days in each year of employment. Failure to comply with the new law subjects an employer to administrative fines imposed by the Labor Commissioner and authorizes the Labor Commissioner or the Attorney General to recover civil penalties, which includes attorneys' fees and costs.

There are some limits on accrual. An employer will be allowed to cap total accrual at 48 hours or six days. Employers that already provide for paid sick leave per their Company policy that covers the new three paid sick days per year, will not have to provide an additional three days. Employers will be required to provide written notice to its employees of this new law.

Some employers are specifically excluded from this law, including in home supportive services, such as home health care givers. Also excluded are individuals employed by an air carrier as flight deck or cabin crew member, whom are covered under federal labor laws.

Governor Brown proclaimed in a written statement, "make no mistake, California is putting its workers first." California is one of only two states (Connecticut) that has adopted a paid sick leave law.

On the road to the Governor's desk, this bill's passage through the Assembly and Senate was not without its share of drama. According to the Bill Analysis, opponents to the bill argued while many employers voluntarily offer sick leave for full-time employees, expanding this mandate on all employer will create a huge fiscal burden on employers. "For example, many employers currently offer paid sick leave which accrues on a per month or per pay period basis. However, this bill requires them to completely change their existing policies in order to mirror the accrual rate proposed under this Bill." Opponents also argue that this creates new exposure for employers who do not comply, opening up the risk for litigation.

Supporters of the Bill include most unions and employee based associations. The author and proponents of the Bill pointed to studies which have found that providing sick days to workers saves money for businesses by reducing turnover, reducing the spread of illness in the workplace, and improving workers' morale and productivity.

Employers will need to anticipate the change which goes into effect on July 1, 2015 and plan accordingly. Planning should include being prepared to provide written notice to all employees. For those employers not already providing paid sick leave of at least three days a year should ensure that the Sick Leave policy in the Employee Handbook or Manual is revised.

Allyson Thompson is an Associate with Kring & Chung, LLP's Irvine, CA office. She can be reached at (949) 261-7700 or  athompson@kringandchung.com.