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Less than two weeks after it took effect, California’s paid sick leave law has been changed with important amendments that affect most employers in the state.

The new changes took effect immediately upon Gov. Jerry Brown signing the fixer legislation to last year’s Healthy Families Act of 2014. The new law gives employers some new flexibility in how they accrue paid sick leave.

To make sure that you stay on top of the new law and understand your responsibilities, the following are the main changes:

 

Employer standard

The old law: Under the original version of the law, if an employee worked in California for 30 or more days within a year from the start of employment they were entitled to paid sick days to be accrued at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked.

The new law: Now, an employee who works in California for 30 or more days within a year from the start of employment is entitled to paid sick days so long as the employee works for at least 30 days within the previous 12 months with the same employer.

 

Sick leave accrual method

The old law had one standard for calculating paid sick leave accrual, but the new law allows for other methods.

Under the amended law, employers may provide for employee sick leave on a basis other than one hour for each 30 hours worked, provided that the accrual is:

(1)   On a regular basis, and

(2)   The employee will have 24 hours of accrued sick leave available by the 120th calendar day of employment.

 

An employee is allowed to use accrued paid sick days beginning on the 90th day of employment.

 

Limiting sick day use

The old law: An employer could limit the employee’s use of paid sick days to 24 hours or three days in each year of employment.

The new law: An employer may limit an employee’s use of paid sick days to 24 hours or three days in:

(1)   Each year of employment,

(2)   A calendar year, or
(3) A 12-month period.

 

Grandfathered status

The new law gives employers more flexibility when accruing paid sick leave.

The law states that an employer may use a different accrual method, other than providing one hour per every 30 hours worked, provided that the accrual is on a regular basis so that an employee has no less than 24 hours of accrued sick leave or paid time off by the 120th calendar day of employment or each calendar year, or in each 12-month period.

But if employers changed their existing policy, the grandfathering provision does not apply. At that point, an employer has to comply with the accrual method above, or front load three days of paid sick leave at the beginning of each 12-month period.

This section does not prohibit the employer from increasing the accrual amount or rate.

 

‘Pay’ rates when sick

The new law prescribes options for employers to calculate the “pay” for sick leave under this law:

  • Paid sick time for nonexempt employees shall be calculated in the same manner as the regular rate of pay for the workweek in which the employee uses paid sick time, whether or not the employee actually works overtime in that workweek.
  • Paid sick time for nonexempt employees shall be calculated by 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.
  • Paid sick time for exempt employees shall be calculated in the same manner as the employer calculates wages for other forms of paid leave time.

 

Reinstatement and sick time balances

Under the new law, employers are not required to reinstate accrued paid time off for an employee who is returning after less than a year of leaving their employer if they were paid for their accrued time off upon separation.

 

Record-keeping

The new law also clarifies that the employer does not have to inquire for record-keeping purposes why someone took paid time off. Because of this, the employer is not liable for failing to accurately keep records when, for example, it has a paid-time-off policy and the employee does not announce the purpose of the paid time off.

 

The takeaway

These changes are important and your human resources manager needs to know about them so that your organization stays compliant, which reduces the chances of being sued by someone.

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