FAQs on COVID-19 laws enforced by the California Labor Commissioner’s Office

The COVID-19 pandemic seems far from over with a late July surge in many parts of the country. California workers remain subject to the workplace risks posed by the coronavirus. Here are some frequently asked questions related to workplace issues that may arise because of the pandemic.

*Is an employee entitled to receive compensation for reporting to work and then being sent home by the employer?

In most cases, if an employee reports for a regularly scheduled shift but works fewer hours or is sent home, the employee must be compensated for at least two hours, or no more than four hours, of reporting time pay.

For example, a worker who reports to work for an eight-hour shift but only works for one hour must receive four hours of pay – one for the hour worked and three as reporting time pay. This allows the worker to receive earnings for at least half of an expected eight-hour shift.

*Are exempt employees entitled to a full week’s salary for work interruptions that result from a shutdown of operations?

An employee is exempt if paid at least the minimum required salary while meeting other exemption qualifications.

Provided that work is available, employers may make deductions from salary if the exempt employee is absent from work for a full day or more for personal reasons other than medical reasons. If an exempt employee does not work the full week because the employer did not make work available, the employer must pay the employee. Employers are required by federal law to pay an exempt employee who performs any work during a workweek a full weekly salary in this circumstance.

However, an exempt employee who performs no work at all during a week may have their weekly salary reduced by an employer. The employer may not make deductions from salary for absences of less than a full day for personal reasons or illness. If an exempt employee works any portion of a day, the employer may not deduct wages for a partial day’s absence for personal or medical reasons.

Federal law does allow deductions for partially worked days from an employee’s accumulation of sick leave to allow the employer to pay the employee for sick time using accrued sick leave. If an exempt employee has exhausted or not yet accrued any sick leave, the employer may not deduct any salary for a partial day’s absence.

*Can an employee use California Paid Sick Leave (PSL) due to COVID-19 illness?

Yes. If the employee has paid sick leave available, the employer must provide PSL and compensate the employee according to California law. Employees may use paid sick leave for absences due to illness, the diagnosis, care, or treatment of an existing health condition, or preventative care for the employee or the employee’s family member.

Preventative care may include self-quarantine that results from potential exposure to COVID-19 if such quarantine is recommended by local, county, or state authorities. An employer may allow paid sick leave for preventative care when the worker has been exposed to COVID-19 or where the worker has traveled to a high-risk area for COVID-19 transmission.

*If an employee exhausts sick leave, can the employee use other paid leave?

Yes, if an employee does not qualify to use paid sick leave, or has exhausted sick leave, the employee may use any other sick leave that is available. If the vacation or paid time off policy of the employer permits such use, an employee may choose to take such leave and receive compensation.

*Can an employer require a quarantined worker to exhaust paid sick leave?

The decision to use paid sick leave is subject only to the discretion of the employee. An employer cannot require a worker to use PSL. If the employee chooses to use paid sick leave, the employer may require that the employee take a minimum of two hours of paid sick leave. The determination of how much paid sick leave will be used is subject only to the employee’s discretion.

California employees are legally entitled to compensation if their employers violate the state’s employment and labor laws, including those related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The experienced employment law attorneys at Moss Bollinger can help protect and assert your important legal rights as a California worker. We can help you determine your best course of action moving forward. Moss Bollinger is dedicated to protecting and asserting the rights of California employees. Call 866-942-7974 today for a free consultation or contact us online.

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