As spring approached in 2021 with the hope of putting the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic behind us, the California Legislature enacted Senate Bill 95 (“SB 95”) to provide supplemental paid COVID-19 sick leave to Californians, retroactively to January 1, 2021.
California’s previous supplemental paid COVID-19 sick leave regulations expired on December 31, 2020. Between then and March, California employers were forced to work through a variety of local ordinances in the absence of a statewide emergency paid sick leave law. This leave must be granted in addition to leave taken under state, local, or employer leave laws or policies.
SB 95 requires 80 hours of paid leave to employees for qualifying reasons. This new legislation expands paid COVID-19 leave to a greater number of employers and for a larger number of reasons. Unlike the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), this Act does not provide a tax credit or other funding measure to offset the cost of the leave.
The prior law applied to private employers with 500 or more employees in the United States. The new law applies to any employer who employs more than 25 employees. Unfortunately, SB 95 is vague as to whether these employees must be in California or nationwide for the new paid sick leave law to apply to an employer.
SB 95 also broadens the scenarios under which employers are required to provide leave to employees. The new law requires qualifying employers to provide supplemental paid COVID-19 sick leave to employees unable to work or telework because of any of the following reasons:
- The employee is subject to a quarantine or isolation period related to COVID-19 as defined by an order or guidelines of the State Department of Public Health, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or a local health officer who has jurisdiction over the workplace;
- The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine because of reasons related to COVID-19;
- The employee is attending an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccination;
- The employee is experiencing symptoms related to a COVID-19 vaccination that prevents the employee from being able to work or telework;
- The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;
- The employee is caring for a family member who is subject to a quarantine or isolation order, or other guidelines, or who has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine; and/or
- The employee is caring for a child whose school or childcare location is closed or unavailable for reasons related to the presence of COVID-19 on the premises.
The requirement to provide leave begins 10 days after the law is enacted and applies retroactively to January 1, 2021. Any retroactive payments need to be paid “on or before the payday for the next full pay period after the oral or written request of the covered employee.”
Similarly, to the prior law, the new law under SB 95 requires that employers provide eligible employees with up to 80 hours of supplemental paid COVID-19 sick leave. Covered employees are entitled to the 80 hours of leave “if that employee either works full time or was scheduled to work, on average, at least 40 hours per week for the employer in the 2 weeks preceding the date the covered employee took COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave.” Part-time employees with a normal weekly schedule may receive the total number of hours the covered employee is normally scheduled to work for the employer over 2 weeks.
All employers with 25 or more employees must update their COVID-19-related leave policies, especially since the law is retroactive. The new law expires on September 30, 2021.
Moss Bollinger is an employment law firm that works zealously to protect its clients by ensuring that California employers observe all labor and employment laws, California and federal, including those newly enacted laws which employers may not ignore. Contacting and discussing your case with an experienced employment law attorney is often the best way of protecting important legal rights. Moss Bollinger takes pride in holding employers accountable. We work on a contingency basis which means that we only receive a fee if you win your case. Contact Moss Bollinger today by phone at (866) 535-2994 for a free consultation or reach us online.