Governor Jerry Brown recently signed legislation that compels California employers to provide sick leave for their employees. The law, AB 1522 – also known as the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (“HWHFA”) – provides that employees will be entitled to earn at least three paid days of sick leave per year and will go into effect on July 1, 2015.

California employers should be aware of the provisions of AB 1522 and start planning for design and implementation of sick leave programs that comply with the law’s requirements. The law is designed to cover all California employers regardless of size, and there are only a few exceptions in place for employees covered by collective bargaining agreements, certain in-home health care workers, or airline employees. AB 1522 also carries with it notice and record keeping requirements that will compel employers to be proactive to avoid fines and penalties available under the statute.

Key provisions of HWHFA include the following:

  • Full or part-time employees who work more than 30 days per year in California may accrue and take paid sick days
  • Employees must accrue at least one hour of paid sick time off for every 30 hours worked; alternatively, employers may implement a policy that provides at least 24 hours (or three days) of paid sick leave for employee use each year.
  • Accrued sick days carry over from year to year, but do not need to be paid out at time of termination of employment
  • If an employee separates from employment and is rehired within one year, any previously accrued and unused paid sick days must be reinstated
  • Employees must be allowed to use sick time for their own or a family member’s illness or preventative care
  • Employees must also be allowed to use accrued sick time for time off related to an employee’s status as a victim of domestic abuse, stalking, or sexual assault
  • Employers are required to display a posting explaining employees’ rights to mandatory sick time pay
  • Records regarding hours worked, paid sick time accrued and paid sick time used must be maintained for three years

There are a number of other provisions in HWHFA that can catch unsuspecting employers. It is recommended that all employers with California-based employees or employees who may spend more than 30 days in California in a 12-month period review their policies and procedures for accrual and use of sick pay to ensure compliance with HWHFA. Violations of the Act can result in penalties ranging from $50 to $4,000 per violation, with authority for enforcement of the Act resting with the California Labor Commissioner. While HWHFA does not expressly include a private right of action for employees, employers may see such claims brought under the Private Attorney General’s Act (“PAGA”), where employees may attempt to collect penalties on behalf of the state plus attorneys’ fees and costs.