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More Local Paid Sick Leave Ordinances

 

Over the last few years, several cities and counties in California have passed ordinances requiring paid time off or paid sick leave for employees.  California employers are still trying to figure out how to comply with California’s paid sick leave law (aka: Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act).  Santa Monica, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Long Beach have added their own sick leave ordinances, and San Francisco has amended its sick leave ordinance, making it that much more difficult for employers to comply with the sometimes contradicting requirements.  Below are brief highlights the new/amended local ordinances.

Amended San Francisco Paid Sick Leave

Effective January 1, 2017, San Francisco’s paid sick leave law is amended in an attempt to better align its provisions with California’s paid sick leave law. The amendments provide that San Francisco’s sick leave begins to accrue upon the commencement of employment, but employers may limit usage until after 90 days of employment.  The amendments allow employers to “advance” the sick leave at the beginning of the year instead of permitting employees to accrue the time. This is treated as an advance, temporarily halting accrual until after working the number of hours necessary to have accrued the advanced amount, at which point accrual resumes.  However, unlike the grant method under California’s paid sick leave law, employers  still have to allow employees to carry over unused sick time to the following year.  I suspect this will continue to cause problems for San Francisco employers, and doesn’t really address the accrual versus one-time grant problem.

The amendments also change to the definition of “family members” for whom time may be used, expands the permitted uses to include preventative care and time for purposes related to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking suffered by the employee, clarifies how and when sick leave must be paid, requires written notice to employees regarding available balances of paid sick leave, and, like California’s law, requires reinstatement of unused sick leave if an employee is rehired within one year of separation.

San Francisco is usually pretty good about providing FAQ’s about their ordinances, so I suspect the city will publish material to help guide employers in the near future.

Los Angeles Paid Sick Leave

Covered employees: Employees who work two or more hours in a particular week in the City of Los Angeles

Effective date: Businesses must comply with the sick leave requirements starting July 1, 2016

Accrual rate: The ordinance provides that paid sick leave begins to accrue at the commencement of employment, and the employee shall accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked

Accrual cap: Employers may implement an accrual cap of 72 hours of accrued paid sick leave.  Accrued time must be carried over from year to year

Usage cap: Employees must be permitted to use up to 48 hours of accrued sick leave each year

One-Time Grant: Instead of permitting employees to accrue paid sick leave, employers may grant the full amount of leave at the beginning of each year, and if they do so, the time need not carry over from year to year

Usage: Employers may prohibit employees from using any accrued paid sick leave until after the first 90 days of employment

Leave to care for others: In addition to the persons identified in the California sick leave law for whose care employees can use sick leave, the ordinance permits employees to use sick leave to care “for any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship”

Santa Monica Paid Sick Leave

Covered employees: Employees who work two or more hours in a particular week in Santa Monica

Effective date: Businesses must comply with the sick leave requirements starting January 1, 2017

Accrual rate: The ordinance provides that paid sick leave begins to accrue at the commencement of employment, and the employee shall accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked

Accrual cap: Employers with 26 or more employees shall provide at least 40 hours of paid sick leave as of January 1, 2017 (note, however, that the California law requires employees be permitted to accrue up to 48 hours) and at least 72 hours of paid sick leave as of January 1, 2018

Employers with 25 or fewer employees shall provide at least 32 hours of accrued paid sick leave as of January 1, 2017 and at least 40 hours of accrued paid sick leave as of January 1, 2018 (remember: California law requires employees be permitted to accrue up to 48 hours)

Accrued time must be carried over from year to year

Usage cap: Unlike the California sick leave law, the ordinance does not permit a usage cap

One-Time Grant: Instead of permitting employees to accrue paid sick leave, employers may grant the full amount of leave at the beginning of each year, and if they do so, the time need not carry over from year to year

Usage: Employers may prohibit employees from using any accrued paid sick leave until after the first 90 days of employment

San Diego Paid Sick Leave

Covered employees: Employees who, in one or more calendar weeks of the year, performs at least two hours of work in the City of San Diego

Effective date: The voters of San Diego approved the paid sick leave ordinance on June 7, 2016.  Under San Diego election laws, the law will take effect on the date the City Council adopts a resolution declaring the result of the election.  It is assumed this will occur sometime in July

Accrual rate: The ordinance provides that earned sick leave begins to accrue at the commencement of employment, and the employee shall accrue one hour of earned sick leave for every 30 hours worked within the geographic boundaries of the City of San Diego

Accrual cap: Employers may not implement an accrual cap; employees must be permitted to continue to accrue earned sick leave.  Accrued time must be carried over from year to year

Usage cap: Employers may limit usage of earned sick leave to 40 hours per year

One-Time Grant: The law does not expressly provide for a grant of earned sick leave

Usage: Employers may prohibit employees from using any accrued earned sick leave until after the first 90 days of employment

So far, Oakland and Emeryville have not changed their paid sick leave ordinances. None of the local ordinances require employers to pay out unused paid sick leave upon termination. However, if an employer allows employees to use paid sick leave for purposes other than sick leave, the employer could turn the paid sick leave into a paid time off policy which would have to be paid out at the end of the employment.

California employers with employees working in any of the cities above should review their paid sick leave f policies to evaluate whether they comply with both the state and municipal sick leave ordinances.  Businesses with employees in multiple cities should either adopt a different policy for employees in certain cities or create a single policy complies with whichever municipality is the strictest.

Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman of Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.

Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Pleasanton, Oakland, San Ramon, Hayward, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

New Labor Law Posters for San Francisco

Every year, federal and state employment laws alter the landscape for employers. More recently, cities and counties have entered the mix with their own rules and regulations. Companies doing business in San Francisco are likely familiar with the ever-changing rules and posters.  Effective July 1, 2016, there are some new labor law posters for San Francisco companies that must be displayed in the workplace.  Which posters you have to display depends on how many employees you have working in San Francisco.

San Francisco Labor Law Posters

You can obtain nice laminated posters from various sources, but you have to be sure the posters are up to date and appropriate for your location and the size of your company. Alternatively, you can hunt around the Internet to find the new labor law posters. In order to make it easy for you, I’m including links to the new labor law posters for San Francisco in this article with a brief description of when you need the poster.  The links and posters are accurate as of July 1, 2016, but as I’ve said before, the laws keep changing so it is always a good idea to check with an employment law specialist.

San Francisco Minimum Wage Notice with New $13.00 per hour Minimum wage

On July 1, 2016, pursuant to Proposition J, which passed in 2014 with more than 76% of the vote, San Francisco’s minimum wage increases to $13.00.  All employers, regardless of where they are located, must pay their employees who perform work in San Francisco the San Francisco minimum wage.

The current SF Minimum Wage Notice can be downloaded here.

San Francisco has a helpful FAQ about the SF Minimum Wage requirements.

San Francisco Health Care Security Ordinance (HCSO) Notice with Rate Increases for 2016

Businesses with 20 or more employees (and nonprofit organizations with 50 or more employees) must spend a minimum amount on health care benefits for each of their “covered employees” – generally, those employees who work 8 or more hours per week in San Francisco and have been employed for more than 90 days. Employers with 20-99 employees must spend at least $1.68 for each hour payable for each covered employee. Employers with 100+ employees must spend at least $2.53 for each hour payable for each covered employee. These expenditures must be made for each employee within 30 days following the end of each calendar quarter.

The current SF HCSO can be downloaded here.

You can find more information regarding the SF HCSO, including reporting requirements, here.

San Francisco Family Friendly Workplace Notice

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed the Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance (FFWO) on October 8, 2013 and it became effective on January 1, 2014. This ordinance gives certain employees the right to request a flexible work arrangement and gives the employer the right to refuse for legitimate business reasons.

The FFWO requires that employers with 20 or more employees allow any employee who is employed in San Francisco, has been employed for six months or more by the current employer, and works at least eight hours per week on a regular basis to request a flexible or predictable working arrangement to assist with caregiving responsibilities. The employee may request the flexible or predictable working arrangement to assist with care for:

  1. a child or children under the age of eighteen;
  2. a person or persons with a serious health condition in a family relationship with the employee;  or
  3. a parent (age 65 or older) of the employee.

The official notice can be downloaded here.

The SF Office of Labor Standards Enforcement has a helpful FAQ regarding the FFWO.

San Francisco Paid Sick Leave Notice

The San Francisco Paid Sick Leave Ordinance became effective on February 5, 2007.  All employers must provide paid sick leave to each employee (including temporary and part-time employees) who performs work in San Francisco. Although statewide Paid Sick Leave Requirements went into effect on July 1, 2015, employers with employees performing work in San Francisco are required to comply with both laws. Unfortunately, compliance with the statewide Paid Sick Leave Requirements does not guarantee compliance with San Francisco Paid Sick Leave Ordinance.

The official poster that must be posted in the workplace can be downloaded here.

There is a helpful FAQ regarding the SF Paid Sick Leave Ordinance compared to the California paid sick leave requirements.

Knowing which labor law posters to post and when to get updates is not always easy. Hopefully this article will help companies comply with the posting requirements for the various labor law posters in San Francisco.

Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman of Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.

Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Pleasanton, Oakland, San Ramon, Hayward, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

Inability to Work Under Particular Supervisor Not a Disability

A California court recently reaffirmed that the inability to work under a particular supervisor because of anxiety and stress related to the supervisor’s standard oversight of job performance—is not a disability recognized under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA; Gov. Code, § 12900 et seq.).

Higgins-Williams worked as a clinical assistant for Sutter Medical Foundation’s Shared Services doing patient intake. In 2010, Higgins told her doctor she was stressed because of interactions at work with human resources and her manager.  Her doctors diagnosed her as having adjustment disorder with anxiety, and Higgins went on a stress-related leave of absence under the California Family Rights Act and the Family Medical Leave Act. The doctor reported Higgins’ disabling condition as “…stress[] when dealing with her Human Resources and her manager.”

When Higgins returned to work, she received her first negative performance evaluation since she began working at Sutter.  Higgins believed she was being singled out, and that her supervisor “was curt and abrupt with plaintiff, while being open and friendly with plaintiff’s coworkers, and gave plaintiff a disproportionate share of work.”  Plaintiff requested a transfer to a different department for “…forever”), a schedule of 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and another leave of absence.  Plaintiff made the requests in order to accommodate her alleged disability: adjustment disorder with anxiety.

Sutter granted the leave of absence, but refused to transfer her to a different department with a different manager.  Higgins’ doctor continued to extend the leave of absence because Sutter never agreed to transfer Higgins to a different department with a different manager.  The doctor opined that although Higgins could return to work as a clinical assistant, the doctors was concerned about Higgins’ ability to do so in the same department as her regional manager.  Sutter eventually terminated Higgins because there was no indication Higgins would ever be able to return to her job.

Inability to Work Under Particular Supervisor Not a Disability

Higgins sued Sutter for disability discrimination and failure to accommodate.  The appellate court held:

An employee’s inability to work under a particular supervisor because of anxiety and stress related to the supervisor’s standard oversight of the employee’s job performance does not constitute a disability under FEHA, citing Hobson v. Raychem Corp. (1999) 73 Cal.App.4th 614, 628 [“the inability to perform one particular job, or to work under a particular supervisor, does not constitute a qualified disability” under FEHA].

Because the court determined the plaintiff did not have a “disability,” the remaining disability-related causes of action were dismissed.

California and federal law define “disability” very broadly, but that doesn’t mean every stress or anxiety requires an accommodation.  When the requested accommodation is a different supervisor, courts are reluctant to hold an employer liable for disability discrimination.  Employers must take every request for a disability accommodation seriously.  When properly conducted, the employer and employee should engage in an interactive process to determine what reasonable accommodations will enable the person to perform the essential functions of the job.

The Nuddleman Law Firm represents employers and employees regarding disability accommodations and discrimination.

Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman of Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.

Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Pleasanton, Oakland, San Ramon, Hayward, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

Wage Deductions for Exempt Employee Absences

Wage deductions for exempt employee absences

Most exempt employees must receive a guaranteed salary. The employee is paid for the work performed, not the hours worked.  This means an exempt employee gets paid the same amount regardless of whether s/he works 8 hours a day, or 1 hour a day.  Employers that fail to pay the exempt employee’s salary risk losing the exempt status, and possibly subjecting the employer to significant overtime liabilities.

So, when can you an employer make wage deductions for exempt employee absences?  There is a useful DLSE Opinion Letter on the topic, but weeding through the 13-page opinion letter and the letter that prompted the opinion is not easy.  Hopefully the following provides some clarification for employers and employees regarding when an employer can make wage deductions for exempt employee absences.

Full Week Deductions are OK

If an exempt employee performs no work in a workweek for “personal reasons” and does not have vacation or PTO to cover the time off, the employer does not have to pay the employee’s salary for that week.  If the employee has available accrued PTO or vacation pay, the employer can require the employee to use the available PTO/vacation.  If the employee does not have sufficient PTO/vacation to cover the full week, the employer can just pay the available PTO/vacation and does not have to pay wages for the rest of the week (because the employee has performed no work).

There are a few exceptions: If an employee misses work for a protected reason, such as jury duty, attendance as a witness, or temporary military leave, the absence is not “personal” time off and therefore the employer is obligated to pay the exempt employee for the full workweek

Deductions from Vacation/Paid Time Off/Paid Sick Leave Balances

Employers can require employees to use available vacation, paid time off or paid sick leave balances before taking unpaid time off or to cover partial day, full day or full week absences.  Employers should not, however, require an employee to use Paid Sick Leave under the Health Workplaces Healthy Families Act unless the absence is for one of the reasons specified in the Act.

Full Day Deductions — Personal Reasons

If an exempt employee performs no work in a workday for personal and has no accrued vacation or PTO, then the employer can deduct the equivalent of one day’s pay from the exempt employee’s salary.  Caution: The employee must perform no work—this means no emailing, no phone calls.  If the employee performs any work, the employer must pay the employee’s full salary.

See the exception above about absences that are not for “personal reasons.”

Partial Day Deductions — Personal Reasons

If an exempt employee works any portion of a work day, the employer must pay the employee’s full salary for that day. However, an employer can require the employee to use available vacation or PTO to cover the hours not worked. (Conley v. Pacific Gas & Electric Co., 131 Cal.App.4th 260 (2005) and Rhea v. General Atomics, 227 Cal.App.4th 1560 (2014)).  The employer is not reducing the employee’s salary—it is just requiring the employee to use available PTO/vacation.

For example, if an employee works two-hours, then leaves for the day, the employer can require the employee to use 6 hours of vacation/PTO to cover the absence.  The employee receives his/her full salary and therefore the employer is not making a wage deduction for exempt employee absences.

If the employee does not have available vacation or PTO, the employer cannot make a wage deduction for a partial day absence.

Full Day Deductions – Paid Sick Leave

Every California employer must provide mandatory paid sick leave (PSL) benefits as of July 1, 2015. The PSL law specifies the different reasons for taking PSL, and if an exempt employee takes a full or partial day absence under the mandatory PSL law, the employer can charge the absence against the exempt employee’s accrued mandatory paid sick time.

But what if the exempt employee does not have any more PSL?  Employers can make wage deductions for exempt employee absences of one full day or more caused by sickness, an accident or a disability if the employer has a “bona fide plan, policy or practice of providing compensation salary loss due to sickness, accidents or a disability.” Since every employer is required to provide PSL, presumably every employer has a qualifying plan, policy or practice.  Of course, this assumes the employer actually adopts and complies with the Healthy Workplaces Healthy Families Act.

Partial Day Deductions – Paid Sick Leave

If the exempt employee is only absent part of the day due to sickness or illness, and the employee has exhausted his/her available PSL, the employer may not deduct the remaining time from the employee’s salary.  For example, if the employee works two hours, and then goes home sick, but does not have sufficient available PSL to cover the absence, the employer is still required to pay the employee for the full day.

Other times when an employer can make wage deductions for exempt employee absences

There are a few other odds and ends when an employer can make wage deductions for exempt employee absences without violating the “salary” rules:

  • Employers do not have to pay the full week’s salary for the first and last weeks worked if the employee only works a partial day.
  • Absences under the FMLA are specifically unpaid absences, and therefore an employer can deduct for partial-week, and possibly partial-day absences, covered under FMLA.
  • If an employee is sent home for a safety-infraction, the employer may not be required to pay the full day’s or full week’s salary.

Recap

Any time you deduct money from an employee’s wages, you run the risk of violating the law.  Employees who do not receive the wages they are expecting are more likely to seek outside assistance.

  • Employers do not have to pay the week’s salary if no work is performed during the workweek.
  • Employers may deduct for full day absences caused by “personal reasons” or if the employee takes time off for an illness and the employee has exhausted his/her available PSL.
  • Employers should not dock an exempt employee’s salary for a partial day absence. If the employee does not have sufficient vacation/PTO or PSL to cover the missed partial day, the employer should pay full day’s salary.
  • The employer can require an employee to use available vacation/PTO or PSL for partial day absences (the PSL minimum increment is two hours).
  • Do not deduct from the employee’s PSL balance unless it is for one of the reasons specified in the Health Workplaces Healthy Families Act.

Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman of Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.

Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Pleasanton, Oakland, San Ramon, Hayward, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

New Paid Sick Leave Law Causes Anxiety for Employers

California workers are often faced with a difficult decision: I don’t feel well and I don’t want to go to work where I will get other people sick, but I can’t afford to miss any work. In order to remedy this malady, the California legislature passed AB 1522 creating the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, which requires all employers to provide at least 24 hours of annual paid sick leave to all employees. Unfortunately, the new law was poorly drafted, causing confusion. The Labor Commissioner set up a FAQ page that helped a little, but still didn’t answer important questions.

Just about every employer client I have called me in the weeks leading up July 1st with questions about what they needed to do to comply with the law, and the answers were not always simple. Then, 13 days after employers were required to begin providing paid sick leave, governor Brown signed AB 304 modifying the statute. Although I suspect the purpose of the amendment was to clarify the law, California’s Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 leaves the most ardent HR professionals lightheaded.

HEADACHES

For employers that did not previously offer any type of paid time off, the new law seems fairly simple: Employers must provide at least 24 hours of paid sick leave every year. Simple, right? But what about employees working in San Francisco, Oakland, Emeryville, San Diego or any other city that has passed its own local ordinances requiring a hiring amount of paid sick leave?

If a company has employees working in different cities, even if the employees perform as little as two hours per week in one of the cities that has passed its own paid sick leave ordinance, the employer has to either adopt the highest city requirement and apply that across the board, or have different policies for different employees depending on how much time they spend in each different city. Now an employer has different accrual rates and leave caps for different employees. No chance an employer will make a mistake, right?

HOURLY EMPLOYEES

At what rate must employer’s pay out the paid sick leave? For hourly employees, you would assume the hourly rate is the employee’s regular rate of pay. In fact, the original statute defined “Paid sick days” as “time that is compensated at the same wage as the employee normally earns during regular work hours.” Section 246(k) also says, “[t]he rate of pay shall be the employee’s hourly wage.” Simple, right? It was until the legislature amended subsection k.

Now, the employer has three different methods to choose from:

(k) For the purposes of this section, an employer shall calculate paid sick leave using any of the following calculations:
(1) 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.
(2) 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.
(3) 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.

You’ll notice that there are two different calculations an employer can choose from for nonexempt employees:

  1. the employee’s regular rate of pay; OR
  2. divide the employee’s total wages, not including overtime premium pay, by the employee’s total hours worked in the previous 90 days.

What does that second option mean? It’s a bit confusing, so let’s use an example. Alice’s regular rate of pay is $12.00 per hour, and she typically works 50 hours per week—40 regular hours and 50 overtime hours. Her regular weekly paycheck is $660.00 [($12 x 40) + ($18 x 10) = $660].

Under the amended statute, the employer is only supposed to include “full pay periods of the prior 90 days of employment.” Let’s assume Alice is paid every week. That would mean that, at most, there are 12 full pay periods in the 90 days prior to the intended sick leave. So, Alice earned $7,920 in those 12 full pay periods ($660 x 12 = $7,920).

The statute then directs us to divide the employee’s total wages “not including overtime premium pay” by the total hours worked. Alice worked 600 hours in the 12 pay periods (50 per week x 12 weeks = 600). When you divide her total wages not including overtime ($5,760) by her total hours worked (600) her paid sick leave rate would be $9.60—$2.40 less than her regular hourly rate. So, if an employee regularly works overtime, the employer can actually pay less than the employee’s regular hourly rate if the employer chooses to use the (k)(2) method of calculating the paid sick leave rate of pay. Maybe the lower rate under (k)(2) rewards employers that are willing to “do the math,” but I don’t see many employers using this alternative calculation.

I’d give an example of what happens when you pay different rates for shift differentials, but it looks like my calculator has a headache.

COMMISSIONS, SALARIES AND PIECE RATES

But what about employees paid commissions, salaries or on a piece rate basis? Well, for salaried employees, the regular rate of pay is presumably the weekly salary divided by 40, as dictated by Labor Code section 515(d)(2). Employees receiving commissions or paid on a piece rate basis are more complicated. Get out your calculators.

There are typically two types of commissioned employees: inside sales and outside sales. While outside salespeople are exempt from overtime laws, inside sales people are only exempt if they are covered by either wage order 4 or wage order 7, more than 50% of their wages are paid in the form of commissions, AND the employee earns at least 1.5 times the current minimum wage. Although the Paid Sick Leave law has rules for employees exempt from overtime under the administrative, professional and executive exemption, it does not have rules for other exempt employees (some inside sales, outside sales, sheepherders, irrigators, etc.).

The Labor Commissioner says “If an employee is paid commission or piece rate, then divide total compensation for previous 90 calendar days by number of hours worked and pay this rate.” But, do you use the compensation earned or the compensation paid? Commissions are oftentimes earned before they are paid. Hopefully the employer’s commission agreements clearly identify when the commission is earned versus when it is paid, but neither the Labor Commissioner nor the statute answer this question.

For piece rate employees it is a little bit easier, divide the total amount earned in the previous 90 days by the total hours worked. If the employer is reporting the pieces and hours worked on the pay stubs as required by Labor Code section 226, then this shouldn’t be a problem. On the bright side, employers that were not previously tracking hours worked for their piece rate workers have a good excuse to change their policies so they can properly track paid sick leave.

WHAT IS A YEAR?

There are still other decisions that have to be made. What constitutes a year? The law became effective January 1st, but employers were not required to provide the paid sick leave until July 1st. Should the employer use a calendar year? A year based on the employee’s start date? A year beginning when the paid sick leave requirement became effective? Choosing the right “year” alters how the employer tracks accrued paid sick leave.

CAN I USE MY EXISTING PTO POLICY?

Will your existing PTO policy satisfy the requirements? In most cases, no, because most employees typically do not begin accruing paid sick leave on their first day of employment. Although employers can prohibit an employee from using the paid sick leave during the first 90 days of employment, the employee begins accruing the paid sick leave from day 1. Keep in mind, if an employer modifies its PTO policy to allow the employee to begin accruing PTO from day 1, and that employee stops working in the first 90 days, the employer has to pay out the unused PTO. If the employer decides to keep Paid Sick Leave separate from other paid leave, the employer would not have to pay out the Paid Sick Leave upon termination.

In order for a PTO policy to satisfy the Paid Sick Leave requirements, the PTO has to have the same 30:1 accrual rate required by the Health Workplaces, Healthy Families Act. Although an employer can cap the Paid Sick Leave at 48 hours, the 30:1 accrual rate would actually give the employee about 66 hours of Paid Sick Leave in a year (assuming the employee works 40 hours a day, 50 weeks per year). If you have a PTO policy that allows an employee to accrue 48 hours of PTO per year, the accrual rate is actually lower than the 30:1 Paid Sick Leave requirements.

The July 13th amendment provided a small safe harbor. If an employer had a pre-existing PTO policy that allowed the employee to accrue at least 8 hours of PTO within the first 3 months of employment and at least 24 hours of PTO within the first 9 months of employment, the employer can use the existing PTO policy to satisfy the Paid Sick Leave requirements. However, if the employer ever alters the accrual method used in that policy, then the employer has to default to the 30:1 accrual rate. This applies even if the employer provides a more generous PTO accrual rate than it previously provided.

Rob’s prediction? Litigation.

Although I don’t know that the value of a paid sick leave violation claim would justify a single-plaintiff lawsuit, you can bet there are class action attorneys waiting file suit when an employer makes a mistake. Keep in mind that the Health Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 is part of the Labor Code. That means an employee can sue under the Labor Code Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) and bypass the class action requirements. Even though the individual employee’s recovery may be minimal, even small errors can create significant liability given that the penalties will accrue every pay period for all employees.

BROAD RETALIATION PROVISION

I also predict we will see litigation regarding employers who ask employees for proof that the leave was for a qualifying reason. The Act has a very broad anti-retaliation provision:
An employer shall not deny an employee the right to use accrued sick days, discharge, threaten to discharge, demote, suspend, or in any manner discriminate against an employee for using accrued sick days, attempting to exercise the right to use accrued sick days, filing a complaint with the department or alleging a violation of this article, cooperating in an investigation or prosecution of an alleged violation of this article, or opposing any policy or practice or act that is prohibited by this article

There is a rebuttable presumption of retaliation for a variety of actions, including “if an employer denies an employee the right to use accrued sick days, discharges, threatens to discharge, demotes, suspends, or in any manner discriminates against an employee within 30 days of … (c) [o]pposition by the employee to a policy, practice, or act that is prohibited by this article.”

The Labor Commissioner has told employers that it is illegal to “deny sick leave due to a failure to provide details” regarding the need for the paid sick leave. The Act is silent as to whether an employer can require an employee to provide a doctor’s note for the absence, but the Labor Commissioner seems to be taking the position that if an employer asks an employee for the details of the leave (e.g., “Why do you need to take paid sick leave?”), and the employee refuses to provide the details, the employer must still pay the employee to take the time off work.

To be safe, employers should only ask for doctors’ notes once an employee has used the full 24 hours of paid sick leave.

Employment attorneys helping companies comply with the law have been inundated with phone calls and emails from clients that want to comply with the law. California’s new paid sick leave requirements confuse even the most seasoned HR professionals. I am glad the legislature took a stance on this important issue. Sick workers should not be forced to choose between paying rent or showing up to work where they can get other people sick. The idea behind the statute is good and honorable. Unfortunately, as is often the case, the legislature’s method is blemished.

Having thought this all through, I’m starting to feel a bit queasy myself. I think I need to take a sick day.

 

Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman of Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

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Pregnancy-Related Leave of Absence

FAQ’s Regarding Pregnancy Related Leave of Absence

California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave Act (PDLA) affords pregnant employees the opportunity to take a pregnancy related leave of absence for pregnancy-related disability leaves.  California law protects employees against discrimination or harassment because of an employee’s pregnancy, childbirth or any related medical condition (referred to below as “because of pregnancy”). California also law prohibits employers from denying or interfering with an employee’s pregnancy-related employment rights.

With few exceptions, employers must guarantee the employee’s position for up to 4 months while the employee is disabled as a result of pregnancy.  If the employer has 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius of the employee, the employer may be required to grant the employee an additional 12 weeks of unpaid time off to bond with the newborn child.  Although pregnancy disability leave is usually unpaid, employees may be eligible for state disability benefits.  Employees may also be eligible for up to 6 weeks of state disability benefits while the employee bonds with the child under California’s Paid Family Leave.

Employers and employees do not always understand their pregnancy leave rights and obligations.  The following answers some of the most common questions employees and employers have regarding California’s pregnancy disability leave law.

Does every employer have to provide pregnancy disability leave?

California’s PDLA is part of the Fair Employment and Housing Act.  Therefore, any business with 5 or more employees is required to comply with the PDLA and provide pregnancy disability leave.

Does the company have to publish or post its PDLA policy?

The PDLA requires employers to publish its PDLA policy in the employee handbook if the employer has a handbook. The PDLA also requires employers to post its PDLA policies in a place where employees can view the poster. The DFEH has created a sample poster employers can use.  There are two versions of the standard DFEH poster, depending on whether the employer has more than 50 employees working within a 75-mile radius.  The poster is typically included with the multi-law poster employers purchase.

The poster, and any PDLA policies, should explain the employee’s leave entitlement rights and obligations, when an employee is entitled to PDLA leave, and what happens to an employee’s benefits while on PDLA leave.

Once an employee notifies the employer that the employee requires time off work due to a pregnancy-related disability, the employer must guarantee in writing that the employee can return to work in the employee’s same position if the employee requests a written guarantee.

What happens to an employee’s health insurance benefits while the employee is on PDLA leave?

Employers are required to continue employee group health coverage during your PDL at the level and under the conditions that coverage would have been provided if the employee had continued in employment continuously for the duration of the PDLA leave.  If an employer normally pays 100% of the medical insurance coverage, then the employer must continue to pay 100% of the medical insurance coverage while the employee is on PDLA leave.  If the employee is responsible for a portion of the medical insurance premiums, then the employee will need to make arrangements to continue to pay her portion of the medical insurance premiums while on the PDLA leave.  If an employee fails to pay her portion of the health insurance premiums while on PDLA, the employer may cease making its payments and offer the employee the opportunity to continue coverage through COBRA.

How much leave is an employee entitled to take under the PDLA?

Employees may take “up to” 4 months of unpaid time off while the employee is disabled as a result of pregnancy.  Once the employee is no longer disabled as a result of pregnancy, the employee must return to work even if the employee has not exhausted the full 4 months of leave.

What if the has exhausted her leave before her doctor releases her to return to work?

Although the PDLA only requires the employer to provide up to 4 months of unpaid leave under the PDLA, if the employee’s medical condition qualifies as a “disability” under state or federal disability discrimination laws the employer may be required to provide additional time off work as a reasonable accommodation for the disability.  For example, some courts have held that post-partum depression is a disability, and employers may be required to provide additional time off work as an accommodation for the disability.

Does PDLA leave have to be taken all at once?

No.  PDLA leave may be taken on an as-needed basis as required by your health care provider, including intermittent leave or a reduced work schedule, all of which counts against your four month entitlement to leave.

What if the employee does not need to take time off work, but requires other accommodations?

The PDLA requires employers to reasonably accommodate medical needs related to pregnancy, childbirth or related conditions.  Some common accommodations include temporarily modifying work duties, providing a stool or chair, allowing more frequent breaks, transferring the employee to a less strenuous or hazardous position (where one is available).  The accommodations are required if medically needed because of the pregnancy, and should be supported by a note from the employee’s health care professional.

Does the PDLA allow an employee to take time off work to bond with the newborn?

No.  Although California employees may be eligible for up to 6 weeks of Paid Family Leave, PFL is not a protected leave.  If the employer has more than 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of the employee, the California Family Rights Act requires the employer to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid family bonding leave.  So, if the CFRA applies, the employee could take 4 months of unpaid leave under the PDLA while she is disabled as a result of pregnancy, and then take an additional 12 weeks of unpaid family bonding leave under the CFRA.  Depending on whether the employee has any other disabilities, the employer may be required to provide additional time off determined on a case-by-case basis.

What kind of notice should an employee provide prior to taking PDLA leave?

When the need for the leave is foreseeable, the employee should provide at least 30 days’ notice prior to taking the leave.  When the need for the leave is not foreseeable, the employee should notify the employer of the need for the leave as soon as the need becomes known.

What kind of medical documentation is necessary in order to substantiate a pregnancy-related disability leave of absence?

Except in the case of a medical emergency, employers may require written medical certification from a health care provider substantiating the need for the leave before approving the leave.  The medical documentation only needs to provide sufficient information for the employer to determine that the leave of absence is for a pregnancy-related disability, and they type or amount of leave required (e.g., intermittent, estimated length of time, etc.).   The employer must provide at least 15 days for the employee to submit the medical certification.   The employer may also require a certification that you are able to return to work, with or without reasonable accommodations, after you are no longer disabled as a result of the pregnancy.

Are fathers entitled to time off under the PDLA?

No.  The PDLA only applies to employees who are disabled as a result of pregnancy.  Depending on the size of the employer, fathers may be entitled to time off under either the federal Family Medical Leave Act or the California Family Rights Act to help care for the mother of their child or to bond with the child.

Are employers required to provide any accommodations after the child is born?

Yes.  Employers are required to provide a reasonable amount of break time and use of a room or other location in close proximity to the employee’s work area to express breast milk in private.

Can the employer require an employee to use accrued paid sick leave for PDLA leave?

Yes.  An employer can require an employee to use accrued paid sick leave.  The employee can choose to use accrued vacation or other paid time off.

The company is about to go through a layoff.  If the employee takes PDLA leave, can the employer still proceed with the layoff?

Yes.  An employee on PDLA is entitled to the same rights and benefits the employee would have received had the employee not taken the leave of absence.  If the employer can establish that the employee would have been laid off regardless of the PDLA leave, there is no violation of the law.