COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Expanded in California

Sanitizing a warehouse

California has recently passed a new bill that will go on to expand access to COVID-19 related paid sick leave for those workers that were left out by the initial emergency federal law. Specifically, the law will now cover health care workers and workers employed at companies with over 500 employees.

The bill, known as Assembly Bill 1867, builds upon both federal and state laws that have worked to give employees paid sick leave for either being exposed to COVID-19 or for testing positive for COVID-19.

Back in March the federal government passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which obligates most employers that have less than 500 employees to provide two weeks of full paid sick leave when a worker has either been exposed or have fallen sick to COVID-19. The FFCRA also provides partial pay for workers who need to care for their sick family members or for their children who must now go through remote learning at home. This law is set to expire by the end of the year.

Governor Newsom, by signing AB 1867 into law, has further expanded access to the paid sick leave offered in the FFCRA. Most significantly the law does this by requiring companies with over 500 employees to begin offering the paid sick leave provisions entailed in the FFCRA. It will also come to benefit first responders and health care providers by allowing them access to the FFCRA if their employers, either public or private, have in the past decided not to cover their workers under the federal law.

This is not the first time Governor Newsom has gone on to expand the FFCRA’s reach in California, as back in April Newsom also expanded access to paid sick leave for those working in the food sector, which includes farm workers, agricultural workers, fast-food workers, grocery workers, and delivery drivers.

In a statement after the passing of the bill Newsom goes on to say that “Helping employees stay home when they are sick is foundational in our response to COVID-19. This bill fills in gaps in our federal and state paid sick days policy and gives our extraordinary employees a little more peace of mind as they take time to care for themselves and protect those around them from COVID-19. I look forward to continuing to work with the legislature and other partners to make more progress in this space.”

The passing of the bill also allows for California’s Labor Commissioner to penalize employers if they refuse to provide their workers with paid sick leave. To begin with if a company does not inform their employees of the law they are subject to a $100 penalty. The penalty for refusing to give paid sick leave will be equal to the greater of three times the dollar amount of leave withheld. Additionally, if further harm is caused due to the violation then the penalty will include an additional $50 for each day the violation occurred, which is not to exceed an aggregate total of $4,000.

Source: Law360, NationalLawReview

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