California Mandates Paid Sick Leave

The Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (AB 1522) requires that, beginning on July 1, 2015, employees who work in California accrue paid sick leave at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked up to a maximum accrual of 48 hours. Employers may limit the usage of sick leave to 24 hours each year. The Act’s stated intent is to ensure that workers in California can address their own health needs and those of their families, which will decrease public and private health care costs by enabling employees to seek early and routine medical care.

Paid sick leave is required to be provided for the employee’s or a family member’s health condition or preventive care or for an employee who needs time off to seek medical attention, psychological counseling, safe housing, and the like due to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. Family members are defined to include an employee’s child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, stepparent and stepchild.

To be eligible, employees must work for 30 or more days within one year from their date of hire. There is no minimum number of employees that an employer must have to be covered by this new law. Excluded from coverage are employees who are covered by certain collective bargaining agreements, as well as employees of in-home supportive services and certain air carriers.

Once accrued, employees may begin using paid sick leave after 90 days of employment. Unused sick leave carries over from year to year and continues to accrue up to the maximum accrual of 48 hours. Alternatively, employers may grant employees a lump sum of 24 hours at the beginning of each calendar year. Unused sick leave is not required to be paid to employees upon separation from employment.

Employers may require that employees use sick leave in minimum increments of two hours. Employees are required to provide reasonable advance notice or notice as soon as practicable.

Employers must track and report employees’ paid sick leave accrual each pay period on the itemized wage statement or in a separate document. These records must be maintained for at least three years. Employers are not required to provide additional paid sick leave if their current paid time off policies already satisfy the accrual and usage requirements under this new law.

Employers may not take adverse action against employees who use paid sick days. The new law sets up a rebuttable presumption of unlawful retaliation by employers if they take adverse action within 30 days of an employee filing a complaint alleging a violation of the law, cooperating with an investigation or legal proceeding or opposing a policy or practice prohibited by the law. The Labor Commissioner is charged with enforcement.

The new law requires employers to post a notice regarding its general provisions on or before January 1, 2015. The Labor Commissioner has also published an updated Wage Theft Prevention Act Notice that must be provided to new hires, which includes disclosures regarding paid sick leave. The posting and updated notice can be found on the DLSE’s website.

 Practice Tips:

  • Determine if your existing sick leave or paid time off policy complies with the Paid Sick Leave law’s requirements, ensuring that all California employees are covered.
  • If certain categories of California employees, e.g., temporary employees, are not covered by your existing sick leave or paid time off policy, determine whether to include them in your existing policy or add a policy in compliance with the Paid Sick Leave law that applies to them.
  • Ensure that the sick leave accrual rate is properly applied.
  • Ensure that sick leave is reported on employees’ paycheck stubs or itemized wage statements.
  • Educate front-line supervisors regarding the new law’s requirements.
  • Employers who provide unlimited paid time off should seek legal counsel to ensure compliance.

Mary L. Topliff, Esq.

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