Los Angeles Set to Double Paid Sick Leave for Workers

In early June 2016, the Mayor and Los Angeles City Council approved an increase to the number of paid sick days to six days (48 hours) for employees working in the City of Los Angeles, doubling the three days required by the State.  Los Angeles will join more than 20 cities and counties throughout the nation who have mandated minimum paid sick days.

Beginning July 1, 2016, employers with 26 or more employees will be required to provide employees who work within the geographic boundaries of Los Angeles for 30 days or more in a year with 48 hours of paid sick leave per year.  Employers with 25 or fewer employees will not be required to comply with the sick leave and minimum wage ordinance (the “Ordinance”) until July 1, 2017.

An employer includes any person, including corporate officers or executives, who directly or indirectly employs or exercises control over wages, hours, or working conditions of any employee.  This language potentially opens officers and executives up to liability for violations of the Ordinance.

The Ordinance defines employees as anyone who performs at least two (2) hours of work within the City in any particular week for an employer.  Employees must begin accruing paid sick leave on the first day of their employment or July 1, 2016, whichever is later.  Paid sick leave will accrue at a rate of one (1) hour for every 30 hours worked.  Employees may not use their accrued paid sick leave until their 90th day of employment or July 1, 2016, whichever is later.

Unused paid sick leave must be carried over to the following year.  However, employers may cap the total amount of unused paid sick leave at 72 hours.  Employers may also frontload all 48 hours to their employees.  Unlike State law, if an employer front loads the paid sick leave the employer must still allow for carry over.

In addition to the family members identified under State law, paid sick leave may be used for an individual related by blood or affinity, whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.

The Ordinance allows employers to require an employee to provide reasonable documentation of an absence of work for which paid sick leave was used.  Notably, this practice is prohibited under the Labor Commissioner’s interpretation of State paid sick leave law.

Employers are not required to compensate employees for unused paid sick leave at termination, resignation, retirement or separation.  If an employee separates from an employer and is rehired by the employer within one year from the date of separation, all previously accrued and unused paid sick time must be reinstated.

Unlike State law, the Ordinance does not provide an exception for employees covered by collective bargaining agreements.  The Ordinance provides one exemption for certain existing paid leave plans.  Specifically, if an employer “has a paid leave or paid time off policy or provides payment for compensated time off, that is equal to or no less than 48 hours, no additional time is required.”

State paid sick leave does not preempt or supersede the Ordinance.  Therefore, employers must comply with both State law and the Ordinance.  Where those laws differ, employers must comply with the one which is more favorable to the employee.  Employees may not waive their rights under the Ordinance.

Employers with employees working in Los Angeles should revise their sick leave policies to ensure they will be compliant with this forthcoming law.  Additionally, as more and more cities and counties enact laws relating to employee rights (e.g., wages, paid sick leave, paid family leave, background investigations, etc.) employers should actively review local ordinances to ensure they are compliant with applicable local laws.

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