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California Paid Sick Leave Law Gets Clarification

Posted by Leslie Ruhland on Jun 13, 2017 2:24:32 PM
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With the confusing, and often overlapping, paid sick leave laws and regulations, employers find it difficult to be compliant with these California labor laws. 


Recently the California Labor Commissioner updated a few key points in its FAQ page. On March 29, 2017, the Commissioner, by way of the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), sought to provide additional guidance and clarification by issuing an update to its California Paid Sick Leave: Frequently Asked Questions.

The updated FAQs address key questions on the status of so-called “grandfathered” paid time off (PTO) policies and disciplinary actions for unscheduled absences.

Employers with ‘Grandfathered’ PTO Plans

The current FAQs had already made it clear that employers may satisfy California Paid Sick Leave requirements through a pre-existing PTO policy, if it allowed employees to take paid time off for the same purposes of paid sick leave. In addition, the so-called “grandfathered” policy had to meet the law’s minimum requirements at the time the law went into effect on January 1, 2015.

With the updated FAQs, the Labor Commissioner reinforced the statutory language. Specifically, it was confirmed that an employer with an existing PTO plan that provided as many or more days and under the same or more favorable conditions than those specified in the law, the employer could continue to use that PTO plan without providing additional paid sick.

The Commissioner also explained that the paid sick leave law only speaks to the rate of pay that must be paid for time taken off as paid sick leave. This means that if an employer provides paid sick days with a grandfathered PTO plan, the rate of pay for days off taken for vacations or personal holidays are not impacted by the paid sick leave law.

Employer Discipline for Unscheduled Absences

Secondly, the issue of disciplinary action for an employee’s unscheduled absence from work was addressed. In regards to the paid sick leave law, the Commissioner clarified that the law does not protect all time off taken by an employee for illness or related purposes. Rather, it prohibits disciplinary action only with respect to an employee’s use of accrued and available paid sick leave under the statute.

Therefore, an employer may not take disciplinary actions because of an unscheduled absence for purposes specified under the paid sick leave law. This is assuming the employee has time available and uses only accrued paid sick leave time.

The employer, can, however, impose discipline for those instances where unscheduled absences occur for reasons not specified in the law, or if the employee does not have available paid sick leave time.

Clarification, Not Legislation

While the updated points of the state’s FAQs do not have the force of law, they indicate how the Labor Commissioner likely will enforce California Paid Sick Leave. California employers should review their paid sick leave and attendance policies to ensure compliance.

According to a column at HREOnline:

“While there is no federal law requiring private employers to provide paid-sick leave, states such as Arizona, Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont and Washington have their own paid-sick-leave laws. More than 30 local jurisdictions, including those in California, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington have enacted laws requiring employers to provide sick leave.”

Employers should note that these local ordinances, as well as state and federal disability and leave laws, may further impact an employer’s obligations regarding the above items.

Many cities in California have local mandates that require additional sick leave for employees. Some of these local laws supersede California’s state paid sick leave policy, especially those that provide greater sick leave benefits to employees.

Some of the cities with their own ordinances for sick leave include San Francisco, Oakland, and San Diego.

Staying Informed and Employer Due Diligence

Compliance by employers, especially with issues such as California sick leave law requirements, means having an ongoing and up-to-date process for tracking, understanding, and implementing the provisions of these laws.

There are a number of resources that can assist with this process such as CalChamber’s HRCalifornia site. A good payroll management services company that also provides Human Resources and Insurances services, such as Accuchex Payroll Management Services, is a great option to consider.

Get your Free Guide: California Paid Sick Leave Law to help you make an informed decisions or call Accuchex Payroll Management Services at 877-422-2824.

Free Guide: California Paid Sick Leave Law

Topics: California Sick Leave Law, california paid sick leave law, sick leave abuse, paid sick leave, california labor laws, labor law compliance

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