City of Emeryville is the Latest City to Join a Growing Trend of City Mandated Paid Sick Leave

The City of Emeryville, California has followed in the steps of San Francisco, San Diego, and Oakland by enacting a city ordinance that expands an employee’s entitlement to paid sick leave as provided under California’s Assembly Bill 1522, the Healthy Families, Healthy Workplaces Act of 2014.  Indeed, the stated purpose of Emeryville’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance is to “provide Paid Sick Leave beyond the requirements of AB 1522.”  The Ordinance takes effect on July 2, 2015.

How does Emeryville’s PSL Ordinance expand the scope of AB 1522?

The provisions of AB 1522 will apply unless otherwise provided by the Ordinance.  The Ordinance applies to employees who work two or more hours in a calendar week in the city of Emeryville.

First, unlike AB 1522 in which all employers, whether big or small, are treated alike, Emeryville’s Ordinance differentiates between “Small Businesses” (55 or fewer employees) and “Large Businesses” (56 or more employees).  Small businesses may cap accrual at a maximum of 48 PSL hours per year, and large businesses may cap accrual at 72 hours of PSL.

Second, under California’s AB 1522, an employer may limit an employee’s use to 24 hours or three days in each year of employment.  Emeryville’s PSL ordinance, however, permits the employee to use, in every year of employment, up to the total number of PSL hours accrued, subject to the maximum number of accruable [PSL] hours,” i.e., 48 or 72 hours.

Third, under AB 1522, PSL is authorized when the employee or a family member is ill or getting medical care.  Emeryville’s PSL ordinance expands those “family members” covered under AB 1522, and permits an employee to designate one other person (the “Designated Person”) on whose behalf the employee may use paid sick leave to provide care, similar to the benefits provided by Oakland and San Francisco.  Employers must give employees a 14‐day window period once they become eligible for sick leave benefits and are notified of their eligibility, and annually thereafter, to make this designation. This requirement alone imposes a new administrative and tracking burden on employers.

Finally, perhaps the most surprising addition contained in Emeryville’s PSL Ordinance is that an employee may use PSL to care for the guide dog, signal dog, or service dog, of the employee, his or her family member, or designated person.

Notably, AB 1522 encourages the expansion of PSL benefits at the local level, and in those instances when city ordinances enact greater PSL benefits than the California counterpart, employers must comply with both California and local laws.  Moreover, the employer must provide whichever benefit is more generous to the employee.

With more municipalities implementing their own sick leave laws, employers must be vigilant in keeping abreast of this developing area of law.

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