California Updates Employee Leave Requirements for Coronavirus

In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, states have passed new laws and issued new regulations and guidance about employee leave taken for COVID-19 reasons. These provisions are in addition to the federal Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion requirements passed on March 18 as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Employee leave requirements for Coronavirus in California are listed below.

In general, employee leave permitted under new state COVID-19 rules and guidance varies with respect to factors like the employers and employees covered by the leave, the length and purpose of the leave, whether the leave is compensated and at what rate, and whether the leave is provided under a new law or rule, or covered under an existing provision.

This Compliance Bulletin briefly describes new state employee leave provisions and guidance enacted or issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, along with links to government resources providing further information. Information about similar measures in select major cities is also included. The document will be updated with additional new employee leave rules in this rapidly changing compliance area.

Employee Leave Requirements for Coronavirus

California Employee Leave Requirements for Coronavirus

The California Labor Commissioner has issued FAQs on employee leave options, compensation and salary in the context of COVID-19. In addition, Governor Newsom issued an executive order requiring large employers to provide up to 80 hours of paid leave for food sector workers for certain COVID-19-related reasons. Covered workers include farm workers, grocery workers and food delivery workers, among others. The measure was intended to provide paid leave for employees not covered by FFCRA’s paid leave provisions. Click here for more information.

The following entries describe select local leave laws enacted in response to the COVID-19 emergency. Additional localities (such as San Mateo County and Santa Rosa) have passed similar measures. Employers should familiarize themselves with the leave laws that apply in their county, city or town.

  • Long Beach—Effective May 19, 2020, a Long Beach ordinance imposes a paid sick leave requirement on employers that have 500 or more employees nationally, and that are not required to provide FFCRA emergency paid sick leave. Under the ordinance, full-time employees are entitled to 80 hours of paid leave, and part-time employees are eligible for paid leave in an amount equal to their average number of work hours over a two-week period, for specified COVID-19-related reasons. As with the FFCRA, different rates of compensation apply, depending on the reason for leave. The ordinance also contains pay caps and employee and employer exceptions, such as for health care worker and emergency responder employees (as defined in the ordinance).
  • Los Angeles—Mayor Eric Garcetti has issued a public order, effective April 10, 2020, requiring up to 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave for certain workers for specified COVID-19-related reasons. The order applies to private employers with 500 or more employees within the city of Los Angeles, or 2,000 or more employees within the United States. The order includes employer and employee exemptions, and pay caps apply. The city has issued rules to implement the order.
  • Los Angeles County—Under an urgency ordinance, employees in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County are entitled to 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave for specific COVID-19-related reasons, retroactive to March 31, 2020. Part-time employees receive paid sick leave equal to their average two weeks’ pay. Pay is capped at $511 per day and $5,110 total.

    The ordinance applies to employers with 500 or more employees nationally, but employers covered by the FFCRA or the state order requiring paid leave for food sector employees are exempt. Employees who are emergency responders or health care providers, as defined in the ordinance, are not entitled to the leave.
  • Oakland—On May 12, 2020, Oakland passed a law requiring employers with 500 or more employees to provide their workers with emergency paid sick leave for specified COVID-19-related reasons, including employees at least 65 years old or at other risk of serious illness from COVID-19 exposure. The law took effect immediately upon passage. Full-time workers receive 80 hours of leave, while part-time workers are entitled to an amount of leave equal to their average work hours over a 14-day period, based on hours worked during the period Feb. 3 – March 4, 2020. Pay caps and exemptions, including for health care worker and emergency responder employees, apply.
  • Sacramento—Under a city ordinance effective June 30, 2020, employers must provide employees up to 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave for specified COVID-19-related purposes. The ordinance applies only to employers that have 500 or more employees nationally and are exempt from FFCRA paid sick leave requirements. Exceptions apply for employees who are emergency responders or health care providers, and employers can use certain employee leave provided for COVID-19 purposes as a credit toward the leave required under the ordinance.  As with FFCRA paid sick leave, compensation varies according to the reason for the leave, and daily and aggregate pay caps apply.
  • San Francisco—As of April 17, 2020, the San Francisco Public Health Emergency Leave Ordinance requires employers with 500 or more employees worldwide to provide their San Francisco employees with up to 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave for certain coronavirus-related purposes. Click here for FAQs from the city on the new law.

    The city of San Francisco has also passed the Workers and Families First Program, providing $10 million to businesses with employees in San Francisco to provide five days of sick leave beyond employers’ existing policies. The additional sick leave is available only to employees who have exhausted their currently available sick leave, have exhausted or are not eligible for federal or state supplemental sick leave, and whose employer agrees to extend sick leave beyond current benefits. The city has released an employer guide on the program.

    The city has also published guidance on San Francisco Paid Sick Leave and the coronavirus.
  • San Jose—San Jose has passed a paid sick leave ordinance, effective April 8 – Dec. 31, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The ordinance is meant to fill the gaps left by the FFCRA, and it requires employers to provide eligible employees with up to 80 hours of paid sick leave for specified COVID-19 related reasons. The city has issued FAQs on the ordinance.
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