September 23, 2021

California Labor Commissioner Takes A Hardline on COVID Leave Rules

In a July 2021 ruling, California’s Labor Commissioner levied $448,000 worth of fines against three El Super grocery stores for violations of California’s COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave (SPSL) laws. After receiving complaints from El Super employees and a referral from the worker’s labor union, an investigation was launched by the Division of Labor Standards (DLSE) resulting in substantial fines.

The DLSE found that El Super: 1) failed to consistently inform workers of their rights to SPSL; 2) informed some workers to continue working until they received COVID-19 test results (even when they were exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms); 3) required workers subject to isolation protocols to apply for unemployment or disability; and 4) denied workers the opportunity to quarantine, even where other household members had tested positive.

Finding the “violations expose workers, their families and El Super’s customers to unnecessary health risks” the DLSE quickly issued the citations.

The El Super investigation stands as a stark reminder that the Labor Commissioners’ Office “is working to ensure that workers who are impacted by COVID-19 have access to paid time to care for themselves or their relatives.”[i]

COVID-19 SPSL laws are in effect until September 30, 2021.[ii]

Members with questions about SPSL laws should contact Western Growers.

[i] Quoting Labor Commissioner Lilia Garcia-Brower.

[ii] Small businesses employing 25 or fewer workers are exempt from SPSL laws but may offer SPSL and receive a federal tax credit, if eligible.