Legislation at the federal and state level this month changed many paid sick leave regulations for California employers.  California employers could be subject to at least five different paid sick leave laws spanning federal law, state law, state-regulations, and local government regulations.  As employers reopen in California, it is important to review the various paid sick leave requirements to understand which ones apply to your business to ensure compliance.

1. Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

The FFCRA enacted under the Trump administration on March 19, 2020 expired on December 31, 2020.  The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 permitted employers to take a tax credit who continued to voluntarily provide paid FFCRA leave to employees through March 31, 2021.  The American Rescue Plan of 2021 passed on March 11, 2021, extended the payroll tax credits for qualifying leave that is voluntarily paid by employers through September 30, 2021.  The FFCRA and these extensions for the tax credits for the voluntary paid leave applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees.  The FFCRA does not require employers to provide paid sick leave in 2021, but employers who are voluntarily providing the paid sick leave for qualifying reasons are eligible for a tax credit for this paid leave.

2. 2021 California Supplemental Paid Sick Leave

Governor Newsom signed new legislation on March 19, 2021 requiring California employers to provide COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave.  The new law applies to employers with more than 25 employees, expands the list of covered reasons for the paid leave from the old 2020 requirements, applies for all leave taken by employees in 2021 (upon verbal or written request by an employee, employers must pay for leave retroactively to January 1, 2021), must update and provide notice to employees on their pay stubs of the new amounts of supplemental paid sick leave the employee is entitled to at the end of the first full paid period following March 29, 2021, and there is a new posting requirement.

3. Cal/OSHA Emergency Temporary Standards (Cal/OSHA ETS)

On November 30, 2020, California’s Office of Administrative Law approved Cal/OSHA’s emergency standards setting forth new requirements for California employers. Under the new requirements, employers must develop a written COVID-19 prevention program, train employees, provide personal protective equipment to employees, provide certain information to employees, and abide by record keeping and new reporting requirements.  In addition, the Cal/OSHA ETS requires employers to provide “exclusion pay” to employees under certain circumstances.

4. Local County and City COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Ordinances

Many local county and city governments have enacted their own COVID-19 paid sick leave requirements as well, including:

  • Los Angeles County:
    • Extended until 2 weeks after the expiration of the COVID-19 local emergency declared in March 2020
    • Applies retroactively to business starting on January 1, 2021.
    • [Update] LA County passed COVID-19 vaccine paid leave on May 18, 2021.  Read more about the ordinance here.
  • Los Angeles City: Extended until 2 weeks after the expiration of the COVID-19 local emergency declared in March 2020
  • Long Beach City: Reviewed every 90 days and still in force.
  • Oakland City: Extended until the end date of Oakland’s COVID-19 emergency declaration
  • City of Sacramento: Expires on March 31, 2021
  • San Francisco County and City: Both extended until April 12, 2021
  • City of San Jose: Expires on June 30, 2021
  • San Mateo County: Expires on May 1, 2021
  • City of Santa Rosa: Expires on March 31, 2021
  • Sonoma County: Expires June 30, 2021

5. California’s Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 and Local Paid Sick Leave Ordinances

California’s paid sick leave law, the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, became effective on January 1, 2015.  The law requires employers of all sizes to provide 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked or another approved method.  Employer may cap the accrual of paid sick leave at 48 hours and cap the use of paid sick leave at 3 days or 24 hours, whichever is greater, within a 12-month period.

Some local governments also have their own paid sick leave requirements employers must comply with.  These requirements were in place pre-COVID-19.  Some examples of cities in Southern California with their own requirements include: