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Department of Labor—Answering Your Impending Paid Sick Leave Questions

December 10, 2014 Legal Team

So we all know that a mandatory paid sick leave policy will come into effect at some point in 2015. But we might still be fuzzy on the details. When will it all happen? How? Do I, as the employee, have to do anything different?

We’re here to answer a few lingering questions you may have about California’s latest employment law.

Let’s being with the question of when. The qualifying period for employees to be eligible for paid sick leave will begin on January 1, 2015; however, the actual accrual and entitlement period will begin on July 1, 2015. So, for example, any employee who began working for the company on January 1, 2015, or later will be eligible to begin accrual for a sick time starting on July 1, 2015.

Now for the how. Employees must work for the employer for more than 30 days to be entitled to accrue, but must also work at least 90 days (known as your “probationary period”) to be entitled to use the paid sick leave.

The new law applies to all part-time, full-time, per diem, and temporary employees who fulfill the specified time period worked. The only exceptions are providers of In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS), employees covered by specified collective bargaining agreements, and employees of air carriers (like cabin crew or flight deck) if “they receive compensated time off at least equivalent to the requirements of the new law.”

Beginning July 1st, employees can earn at least one hour for every 30 hours worked. So in one year, an employee could theoretically earn a little more than 8 days a year. Employers, however, can limit the amount of time an employee can take in one year to 3 working days (24 hours total).

An employer can create its own sick time policy but it cannot be any less than the 24-hour accrual as set by the new law.

So what do you, as an employee, have to do to receive your sick day pay? According to the Department of Labor, “employers must permit the employee to use the paid sick leave upon oral or written request, and the law forbids requiring an employee to find a replacement as a condition for using leave.”

Unfortunately, sick days cannot be “cashed out” if you leave your job unless that is company policy. The company has no obligation to pay out your remaining sick pay per law, however, if you leave the position and return within a year, you can reclaim your sick days.

Check your paystubs when you take these sick paydays to make sure you are getting paid on it correctly. You must be paid your normal rate, and if it changes (i.e. due to commissions) then the employer needs to calculate your hourly rate based on the previous 90 days of work and number of hours worked. Employers should also indicate on your paycheck stub how many sick days you have.

Any more questions? Starting January 1st, employers should put up a poster containing all the information you need. You can also visit the Department of Labor’s website and read on the policy/law as well.