California Creates New Mandatory COVID-19 Sick Leave


California recently passed a new law requiring employers with more than 25 employees nationally to provide their California employees with up to 80 hours of paid sick leave for COVID-19-related reasons.  The new law goes into effect March 29, 2021, is retroactive to January 1, 2021, and expires on September 30, 2021.

California’s COVID-19 paid leave law is more expansive than existing and previous federal and California legislation.  For example, a “covered employer” is defined as any business with more than 25 employees nationally (not just in California).  A “covered employee” is defined as any employee who is unable to work or telework for a listed reason, which includes the following:

  • Being subject to a quarantine or isolation order;
  • Being advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine;
  • Attending an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine;
  • Experiencing symptoms related to a COVID-19 vaccine that prevent the employee from being able to work or telework;
  • Experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;
  • Caring for a family member subject to a quarantine or isolation order or who has been advised to self-quarantine; or
  • Caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed or otherwise unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19 on the premises.

Full-time employees are entitled to 80 hours of COVID-19 related paid sick leave. Part-time employees are entitled to paid leave based on the typical hours they work in a two-week period.  Employers may credit other paid leave already provided for the above reasons on or after January 1, 2021 to the entitled amount.  For example, if a full-time employee received eight hours of federal COVID-19 leave in February 2021, that employee would only be entitled to an additional 72 hours of paid sick leave under the new California leave law.  However, employers may not require employees to use other forms of leave in advance of taking leave under the new law.

Employers must list the amount of available COVID-19 leave on employees’ wage statements as a distinct line item and must post a notice of the Act’s requirements in a conspicuous place in the workplace. 

California guidance on this issue is complex and changing rapidly.  For questions about this or any other workforce issue, please do not hesitate to contact your relationship attorney or one of Honigman’s Labor & Employment attorneys.

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