On September 10, 2014, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1522 which provides workers with three paid sick days per year. The new law, entitled the “Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014,” requires California employers to provide employees with one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked starting on July 1, 2015. The law contains no exemption for agricultural, seasonal, temporary or part-time employees.
Under the new law, employees can begin using their paid sick days on the 90th calendar day of their employment for their own or a family member’s health condition. Employers can limit an employee’s use of paid sick days to 24 hours or 3 days in each year of employment. Unlike accrued vacation or paid time off plans, employers are not required to pay out accrued unused sick leave at time of termination, except that if an employee separates from employment and is rehired within one year, previously accrued and unused paid sick leave must be reinstated.
The legislation defines “family member” broadly to include spouses, registered domestic partners, children (regardless of age), parents (including step-parents and parents-in-law), grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings. This effectively expands the types of family members for which an employee can take protected leave beyond the state’s “kin care” law (Labor Code section 233) which allows an employee to use sick leave to care for family members. Family members for whom an employee may use “kin care” are limited to the employee’s child, parent, spouse, state-registered domestic partner, and child of a state-registered domestic partner. Victims of domestic assault, sexual violence, and stalking are also eligible to use paid sick time under the new law.
The legislation imposes posting, notice, and record-keeping obligations on employers and makes it a labor law violation to discriminate or retaliate against employees who request or use paid sick days. The bill exempts employees covered by collective bargaining agreements if those agreements meet certain requirements, including providing for paid leave and binding arbitration.
The bill provides that an employer is not required to provide additional paid sick days if the employer has a paid leave policy or paid time off policy that meets the accrual requirements and purposes of the legislation. However, Western Growers members are advised to review their existing sick leave and record-retention policies, and employee handbooks, to ensure they meet the minimum requirements of the new law before it goes into effect next year.
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