Understanding the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act

The Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act, which regulates mandatory paid sick leave requirements, went into effect this month.  As an employer, it is important to understand how these new state and city regulations will affect your sick leave policies.  The differences in the City of San Diego and State of California regulations are described below.

When should I grant paid sick leave?

Employers are expected to provide mandatory paid sick days given that the employee has provided a written or oral request to care for themselves or a family member because of a health diagnosis or condition, or for certain purposes including being a victim of sexual assault, stalking, or domestic violence.

Who is eligible to receive paid sick leave?

In order to be eligible to receive paid sick leave in California, employees must have worked for a minimum of 30 days during the year as well as have been in employment for 90 days.  In San Diego, if not a previous employee, the employee also must have started work for the employer on or after January 1, 2015.  Accrual began on April 1, 2015 and authority to take sick leave began on July 1, 2015.  For the most part, as long as employees meet the requirements to receive sick leave, it does not matter whether they are part-time, seasonal, or temporary employees.  Exceptions for eligibility to receive paid sick leave collection include: those who are involved in In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) funded by the public, unionized employees with coverage, members of a cabin crew or employees of flight decks who already are compensated for time off, and employees involved in collective bargaining agreements with certain specifications.  Independent contractors are not entitled to paid sick leave.

Employees that do at least two hours of work per week in one or more weeks within the geographic boundaries of the City of San Diego are entitled to the paid sick leave mandated by San Diego law; however, beyond such geographic boundaries, employees are governed by state law.  The employer does not need to be located in San Diego or even in California, nor does the employee need to regularly work in San Diego as long as they meet the above requirement.  They will be eligible to use their accrued paid sick days starting on their 90th day of employment.  Having employees that operate both within the City of San Diego and outside of its boundaries but still within California creates a dilemma for the employer.  The employer may choose to abide by either city or state regulations, or possibly just use the most generous for easier administration.  If it is the same employee that operates between both boundaries, both the city and state regulations apply.

How does accrual work for sick leave compensation?

The state and city regulations require sick leave benefits to be accrued at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours of work.  Fractional sick leave is not earned for partial hours worked.  An employer cannot request a doctor’s note for absences shorter than three days.  The employer should set a reasonable minimum increment that an employee can use, not to exceed two hours.  The employer does not have to pay out accrued but unused sick time upon termination of the employee.  Earned paid sick time carries over into the next year if it goes unused.  When paid sick leave is being used, the employee must be compensated at the same hourly rate (or other compensation scheme) they would have earned if working.

The state and city regulations do differ in terms of accrual and usage caps.  The new state law allows employers to limit use of paid sick days to 24 hours or 3 days each year of employment.  The total accrual of paid sick leave does not have to exceed 48 hours or 6 days in a year.  The San Diego city regulations allow employers to limit use of paid sick days to 40 hours in a year, and employees can accrue sick leave benefits with no cap.

What if I rehire an employee? What effect does that have on accrued sick time?

Any rehired employee must have their previously accrued sick time reinstated.  Under state law, the employee qualifies if rehired in the last year, while city regulations provide for this if the rehiring takes place within six months.  The rehired employee is then eligible to immediately use their paid sick leave.