California Paid Sick Leave

California paid sick leave is a health benefit offered under the Healthy Workplace, Healthy Family Act of 2014, a law created by California Governor Jerry Brown. Starting July 1st of 2015, the state of California mandated that business owners have to offer their employees the minimum amount of paid sick leave. Paid sick leave is generally calculated at one full hour for every thirty hours that are spent at the worker’s place of employment. If you are employing people in California, you need to familiarize yourself with the state’s relatively new paid sick leave law and how it could affect you and your employees. Because there is a growing push for this law to become federal law, it is a good idea to educate yourself on the basics of paid sick leave, even if you don’t live in California or run your business in California. You can always get in touch with a professional or your state’s labor office if you want to learn more about paid sick leave laws.

California is only the second state in the entire country (after Connecticut) to mandate that employers have to offer their employees paid sick leave. And even in Connecticut, paid sick leave only affects employers with 50 or more people working for them.

How You Might be Affected by California’s Sick Leave Law

If the state of California requires you to offer paid sick leave, you must record how much sick leave your employees have had, track their balance, and pay employees what was taken from their balance during their sick leave.

Qualifying for Sick Leave Law

In addition to full-time employees, both temporary and part-time employees also qualify for sick leave in the state of California.

How Much Sick Leave can an Employee Take?

Sick leave can be built up during each pay period according to the number of hours worked or the total amount can be granted at the very beginning of every year. You are required to provide three full days at the beginning of every new year if you decide to go with the total amount method.

Reporting Sick Leave

On your employee’s pay stub, you are required to include how many sick days that are still available to them. You can also include the number of days on an attached document along with the paycheck if you don’t want to print the number of days directly on the pay stub.

Paying Out Sick Leave

You are supposed to grant employees their sick pay leave directly out of their hourly wages. When an employee no longer works for you, you don’t have to pay the remaining balance of their sick leave.

When an Employee Doesn’t Take Paid Sick Leave

Should an employee leave their place of employment, but be hired again within 12 months, their paid sick leave has to be put back into effect. The amount of sick leave an employee takes in one year can be limited to 24 hours, but the employee is able to roll over a maximum of 48 hours of sick leave. When an employer gives each employee a total of 24 hours of sick leave at the start of the year, any unused sick leave from the previous year does not have to be used.

California Paid Sick Leave Law Exemptions

Examples of workers that are exempt from paid sick leave include temps, independent contractors, overtime workers, and part-time employees. IHSS (In-Home Supportive Services) is exempt from paid sick leave in California, as well as certain airline and aviation employees.

The Laws for Paid Sick Leave

If an employer decides to offer employees unlimited paid sick leave, said employer has to include the word “unlimited” on every paystub. There is a rather complex clause in the paid sick leave bill that affects any employer who offers paid vacation days and paid sick days before January 1, 2015. The clause permitted a slower accrual of paid leave if the employee garnered eight hours of leave in the first three months of working for the employer.

Sick Leave Law: Local Ordinances

In the following cities, there is extra paid sick leave required for employees: San Diego, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, and Emeryville. In San Francisco, employees can accumulate up to three days of paid leave every year with no cap on how much that employee can use at one time (so up to 72 hours all at once). In certain situations, the local laws bypass the state’s policies, specifically if the state laws offer better, more generous paid leave benefits. In regards to benefits, protections, and provisions, the employer is required to offer workers the most generous benefit available to them. Employers are permitted to provide employees with paid sick leave that is more beneficial than the sick leave required by the law if the employee chooses the employer’s paid sick leave over the state’s paid sick leave. If an employer plans to change their paid leave policies, they should schedule a consultation with an employment attorney to learn about how to implement the new system and make their employees aware of it.

Los Angeles Paid Sick Leave Requirement Expansion (as of July 1, 2016)

As of July 1, 2016, all businesses of the city of Los Angeles that employ workers are required to create and execute new policies that complied with the updated paid leave ordinance within one week. The ordinance, No. 184320, affected all businesses, both small and large. Major Eric Garcetti approved this ordinance that guaranteed all employees working in Los Angeles more than 30 days out of every year could benefit from two full days of paid sick leave.

What Businesses Might Not Know About Paid Sick Leave Laws in California

The complexities of the paid sick leave law often confuse many employers trying to comply with the regulations. And although the introduction of this relatively new law was met with a large amount of press coverage, many business owners are still not even aware that the law applies to them. Many paid sick leave laws in the United States do not require a business to be a certain size before being affected by the law. However, unlike CRFA (California Family Rights Act) and FMLA (federal medical leave act), paid sick leave applies to all business sizes. An employee who has worked for a California-based business for more than one month in their first year of employment is eligible for paid leave.

Revising Your Paid Sick Leave Policy

It is a common misconception for many business owners that because they already offer their own type of paid sick leave that complying with the latest California paid sick leave law is not necessary. The majority of past policies and current policies used by businesses do not offer a paid sick leave policy that covers employees who must care for sick family members. There might need to be some policy updates to get rid of any paid sick leave limits that are deemed illegal and still being implemented. For example, past paid sick leave policies didn’t offer paid leave for part-time employees, whereas with the updated law, paid sick leave is offered to them.

These older polices could also have accrual rates that are simply not enough for today’s needs. If you haven’t received your company’s paid sick leave policy in a while, it is probably time to revisit your policy and make sure that you are complying with the new California paid sick leave law.

Your Options for Paying Employees for Time Off

Following the period of time that the paid sick leave was taken, the actual paid sick leave pay must be provided to the employees by the regular payday of the next payroll period. Paid sick time for any nonexempt employee is calculated the same way pay for a typical week of work is calculated, even if the employee wasn’t in the office for that week. An employer must be an active participant in, “dividing the employee’s total wages, not including overtime premium pay, by the employee’s total hours worked in the full pay periods of the prior 90 days of employment.” For an exempt employee, an employer calculates paid sick time the same way pay for other types of paid leave is calculated.

Fitness Instructors and the Role that They Play in the Current Worker Classification System

In lots of industries, many professional individuals have a marketable set of skills that allow them to work as an independent contractor, or at least with exceptionally more freedom at work. Many new, small businesses that are just starting out and possibly still working with a relatively small budget may have a difficult time deciding if they will hire independent contractors or employees. Talk to the majority of small business owners and they will tell you just how hard it is to legally and fairly employ people and not go out of business.

Fitness instructors, for example, are not your typical employee. Many fitness instructors have a lot of leeway in how they design their own work schedule. Fitness instructors also tend to be freelancers, working at more than one gym at a time or having multiple part-time jobs. These types of workers become invaluable assets to gyms when their personality and teaching style attracts and retains more gym clients. If the gym decides to hire the fitness instructor as a full-time employee, this becomes very costly for the gym. Now the gym owner must pay paid sick leave, the minimum wage (at the very least), overtime pay, worker’s compensation insurance, and paid meal and rest breaks.

The problem with hiring a fitness instructor as an independent contractor is that it could be called a misclassification if the fitness instructor is told what to teach, what gym attire to wear, and so on by the gym that has recruited them as an independent contractor. Being hit with a lawsuit because of misclassification could effectively kill the business. Basically, a business owner that hires someone as an independent contractor can only pay the independent contractor for their services, not assign a set of job responsibilities to the independent contractor the way an employer would to an employee.

If you operate a larger business such as a franchise gym, you probably work with a bigger budget and have the ability to hire fitness instructors as employees. However, if you are a small business, hiring instructors as fitness instructors is more cost-effective so long as you abide by the rules.

California’s Blue Bubble and How it Affects Employers

California is and has been a heavily democratic state for many years. Time and time again, California voters voted in favor of such things as increased cigarette taxes, plastic bag bans, a repeal of English-Only education in the public schools, ammunition sale restrictions, and recreational marijuana legalization among other progressive issues. In the city of Los Angeles, residents voted in favor of a half-cent sales tax increase for public transportation improvements. There was also a $1.2 billion dollar bond measure that was approved by California voters to help build affordable housing for the homeless. Additionally, voters voted to provide more money for parks, schools, and community colleges.

Along with a democratic governor, California voters elected a super-majority of Democrats to the State Assembly. You can be almost guaranteed that a democratic governor routinely leads to employment laws being enacted both locally and on the stately level that are more progressive. Already, seven different California cities have created and implemented paid sick leave ordinances on the local level.

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