On September 10th, 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (HWHFA). Beginning on July 1st, 2015, employers in California will be required to allow their employees to accrue, at their regular rate of pay, at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, which employers may cap at 24 hours, or three days, per year.
In the alternative, employers may establish a sick leave policy in which employees are provided a minimum of three days of paid sick leave each year. Employers with existing sick leave policies may also continue their policies as long as they are in compliance with the Act. In establishing compliance, employers should take heed to comply with the reporting, recordkeeping, notice, and posting requirements described below.
Which Employers and Employees are Subject to the Act?
The Act expansively defines “employer” as “any person employing another under any appointment or contract of hire and includes the state, political subdivisions of the state, and municipalities.” Strikingly, the Act does not make an exception for small businesses or nonprofits.
The Act applies to all employees who work in California for 30 or more days within one year, including part-time and exempt employees. The Act excludes from coverage: (1) employees covered by collective bargaining agreements that expressly provide for the wages, hours, working conditions, paid sick leave as well as other requirements; (2) employees of the construction industry covered by collective bargaining agreements that expressly provide for specific requirements; (3) providers of in-home support services under certain provisions of the California Welfare and Institutions Code; and (4) flight deck or cabin crew member employees of air carriers, as long as they are provided the same amount of paid sick leave that is provided in the Act.
Employees may use their accrued leave beginning on their 90th day of employment in order to address health conditions or preventative care related to the employee or the employee’s family member. “Family member” is defined under the Act to include the employee’s child (including step, foster, adopted), parent (including step, adopted, in-law), spouse, registered domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild, and sibling. Employees who are victims of domestic violence or sexual assault may also use their accrued leave for matters related to this status, such as obtaining a temporary restraining order or attending psychological counseling.
Discrimination and Retaliation
Employers may not discriminate against an employee for using accrued leave or for filing a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner to allege a violation of the Act. Furthermore, a rebuttable presumption of retaliation will arise if an employer discharges, suspends, or otherwise discriminates against an employee within 30 days of filing a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner.
Reporting, Recordkeeping, Notice, and Posting Requirements
On every paycheck, employers must report to each employee the amount of paid sick leave the employee has available for use, based upon the amount of leave the employee has accrued and the amount of leave the employee has exhausted. Furthermore, employers must maintain records of this information for three years, which may be inspected by the California Labor Commissioner.
Newly hired non-exempt employees must be notified at the time of hiring of their entitlement to paid sick leave. Moreover, employees are required to provide reasonable notice when the need for paid sick leave is foreseeable; when the need is unforeseeable, employees are required to provide notice as soon as practicable. Lastly, employers are required to display a posting at work describing the HWHFA that will be prepared by the CA Labor Commissioner.
The Act grants enforcement power to the California Labor Commissioner and the California Attorney General. If employers withhold paid sick leave from employees, employers can be penalized for up to three times the amount withheld. Employers may also be charged with administrative fines, not to exceed an aggregate penalty of $4,000.
If you would like more information on how California’s new law requiring paid sick leave will impact your business, please call any BurnsBarton attorney.