COVID-19 has caused many employees to take paid or unpaid sick leave. This has also caused significant business interruptions, leaving many employees and employers to suffer financial hardship.
Under California’s Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, employers already must provide employees paid sick leave. However, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the California Legislature passed SB-95, which was signed by Governor Newsom, the Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Bill, effective as of March 29, 2021, which applies to employers that employ more than twenty-five (25) employees. Going forward and on a temporary basis, employers meeting this criteria must provide this additional sick leave to employees who cannot work or telework due to specifically delineated COVID-19-related absences.
The major takeaway is that full-time employees will be entitled to COVID-19 supplemental sick pay for up to eighty (80) hours. Employees who are not full-time are entitled to the total number of hours the covered employee is normally scheduled to work, or if the employee works variable hours, fourteen times the average number of hours the employee worked each day in the preceding six months, or if fewer than six months and no more than fourteen days then over the entire period, and if fourteen days or fewer, the total number of hours worked.
Non-exempt employees are compensated for each hour they are unable to work at the regular rate of pay, whether or not the employee worked overtime. Calculate the employee’s total wages, not including overtime, by the employee’s total hours in full pay periods of the prior ninety days of employment, or the state or local minimum wage, whichever is greater. Exempt employees are compensated in the same manner as their other forms of paid leave. An employer is not required to pay more than $511 per day, or $5,110 in aggregate, unless federal legislation increases that amount, in which the new federal dollars would apply.
An employer cannot require an employee to exhaust or use any other paid or unpaid leave, paid time off, or vacation time before the covered employee uses the COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave, and it cannot supplant any other paid leave available to the covered employee. The time period covered is January 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021, and applies retroactively so those who took qualifying leave may request payment for which they are entitled during the next pay period.
These specific COVID-19-related absences qualify:
- The covered employee is subject to a quarantine or isolation period related to COVID-19 as defined by orders/guidelines of the State Department of Public Health, federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or a local health officer with jurisdiction over the employer’s workplace;
- The covered employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns;
- The covered employee is attending an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine;
- The covered employee is experiencing COVID-19 vaccine-related symptoms that prevent work or telework;
- The covered employee is experiencing COVID-19-related symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
- The covered employee is caring for a family member subject to an order described in bullet number one or has been advised to self-quarantine described in bullet number two; or,
- The covered employee is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed or unavailable for COVID-19-related reasons on the premises.
The quarantine or isolation order must be specific to the covered employee’s circumstances, for example, guidelines state that individuals who live with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 must quarantine satisfies COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave, but a general stay at home order does not qualify.
This applies to employees but not to independent contractors; however, any worker who has been misclassified as an independent contractor and otherwise qualifies is entitled to COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave.
The Labor Commissioner’s Notice can be found here. FAQ’s may also be found here.
For more information or to learn more about how COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave will impact your business, feel free to contact Gordon & Rees or the authors.
To read the full text of the bill, please click here.