Labor Commissioner Issues Opinion Letter Confirming 30 Hours of Paid Sick Leave Must Be Provided to Employees Who Regularly Work 10-Hour Shifts

On August 7, 2015, California’s Labor Commissioner issued an Opinion Letter confirming earlier guidance that employees who regularly work 10-hour shifts must be given up to 30 hours of paid sick leave under the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014.

California’s landmark sick leave law requires employers allow their employees to use “24 hours or three days” of sick leave each year.  Employers who elect not to utilize an accrual system of calculating and providing leave may instead front-load “24 hours or three days” of leave time at the beginning of the year.  The law does not define the term “days,” or otherwise indicate how many hours of leave must be provided to constitute a “day.”

The Labor Commissioner was asked whether an employer who front-loads sick leave time must front-load 30 hours (three days, at 10 hours per day) for employees who regularly work a 10-hour shift.  The Labor Commissioner opined that the sick leave law establishes minimum standards for paid sick leave for covered employees, and must be “liberally construed” to the benefit of employees.  Next, the Labor Commissioner opined that because “24 hours or three days” constitutes the minimum amount of leave required under the law, leave must be provided in whichever manner is more beneficial to the employee.  Thus, an employee who regularly works a 10-hour shift must be provided up to 30 hours of paid leave – three days, at 10 hours per day – in order to satisfy the minimum requirements of the law.

The Labor Commissioner further opined that employees who regularly work six-hour days must be provided 24 hours or four days of leave each year.  The Labor Commissioner opined that permitting an employer to front-load only three, six-hour days would “undercut the mandatory minimum standard of 24 hours for these employees.”

Finally, the Labor Commissioner opined that employees must be permitted to use paid sick leave in amounts consistent with the law’s provision requirements, regardless of whether the employer utilizes an accrual method or front-loading method for providing leave.

The Labor Commissioner’s Opinion Letter is limited in scope.  It does not, for example, answer the question of whether an employee who works some other shift duration (e.g., a 12-hour shift) must be provided and permitted to use more than 30 hours of leave each year.  Nor does the Opinion Letter answer the question of whether the law’s requirement that an employee be permitted to accrue “48 hours or six days” of leave each year compels employers to permit accrual of more than 48 hours per year where employees regularly work shifts exceeding eight hours.  Further, the Opinion Letter provides no guidance as to the criteria used to determine a “regular shift” for purposes of providing leave.  For now, employers should keep in mind that the Labor Commissioner is likely to interpret ambiguities in the law in a manner that is most favorable to employees.

Categories: Labor/Employment

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