California Imposes New Covid-19 Sick Leave Requirements on Employers

By editor on March 25, 2021

With the increased availability of the Covid-19 vaccine, the reduction of Covid-19 cases, and the expiration of the leave requirements of Federal Families Coronavirus Response Act on December 31, 2020, employers may have thought, and hoped, they were seeing the end of a long year of navigating complicated and nuanced Covid-19 related laws. However, in California, new Covid-19 sick leave requirements will be going into effect on March 29, 2021. Governor Newsom signed new legislation known as 2021 Covid-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (“Covid-19 SPSL”) on March 19, 2021. Covid-19 SPSL mandates the provision of up to 80 hours of employer-paid Covid-19 sick leave to employees (including union employees) who work at public or private employers with more than 25 employees.  This law goes into effect on March 29, 2021 and covers the period of time of January 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021.

Employers must list the 2021 Covid-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (“Covid-19 SPSL”) separately on the wage statement from regular sick leave. Covid-19 SPSL for employees who are considered full-time, or who worked or were scheduled to work an average of 40 hours per week in the two weeks before the leave was taken, are entitled to 80 hours of SPSL. For part-time employees, the employer may take fourteen times the average number of hours the employee worked each day for the employer for the past six months to evaluate the amount of SPSL available.

Covid-19 SPSL has broaden the scope of permissible reasons to use Covid-19 related sick leave beyond that seen in the Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act by also permitting employees to utilize leave for vaccination or vaccine-related symptoms. As such, employees may use the Covid-19 SPSL when they are unable to work or telework due to caring for themselves or family members for Covid-19 related reasons (including being subject to a specific quarantine or isolation period related to Covid-19, being advised by a healthcare provider to quarantine due to Covid-19, experiencing symptoms of Covid-19 and is seeking a medical diagnosis, or caring for a child whose school or place of care is unavailable due to Covid-19 on the premises). Employees may also use Covid-19 SPSL to attend a vaccine appointment or if they cannot work or telework due to vaccine-related symptoms.

The law is retroactive back to January 1, 2021. An employee who took leave between January 1, 2021 and March 28, 2021 for a qualifying reason under Covid-19 SPSL may make an oral or written request after March 29, 2021 for retroactive payment. With that said, if an employer voluntarily paid another supplemental benefit for Covid-19 related sick leave prior to March 29, 2021, then an employer may receive a credit for the Covid-19 sick leave hours paid, if specific requirements are met.

This communication may be considered advertising in some jurisdictions. It is intended to provide general information about legal developments and is not legal advice. If you have questions about the contents of this alert, please contact Peter Glaessner, Steven Werth or Lily Adam.