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California Sick Leave Laws & Entitlements

Posted on October 17, 2022 | Wage & Hour Laws

California has some of the most employee-friendly laws in the country. Most employers in the state have to obey certain laws that require them to provide paid or unpaid medical and family leave. Understanding the rights you have as a worker in California can help you request sick leave and fight for sick days or wage reimbursements for time off your employer may owe you by law.

The Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act California

California’s employment and labor laws are complex. Many different laws affect an employee’s ability to take sick leave. One of the most important is the Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act of 2014. This law states that all employees who work in California for 30 or more days within a year from beginning employment, after July 1st, 2015, must receive at least one paid our of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Sick leave accrual starts on the first day of employment or on July 1st, 2015 (whichever comes later). This law does not cover certain employees.

  • Employees with certain collective bargaining agreements
  • In-home support services providers
  • Certain air carrier employees
  • Retirees annuitants working for the government

It is within an employer’s authority to cap the number of paid sick leave hours an employee can accrue to 24 hours, or three days, per year. An employee can carry over unused sick leave hours to the following year, but then the cap can change to 48 hours or six days. Under the provisions of the act, an employer cannot retaliate against an employee for using paid sick days. An employee can request a sick day verbally or in writing. An employee may use a paid sick day to care for a family member’s care or treatment. All employers in California must obey the terms of the Healthy Workplaces Healthy Family Act.

Special Municipal Laws

Certain cities in California have passed their own sick leave laws in addition to statewide statutes. Los Angeles, Long Beach, Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville, San Francisco, Santa Monica, San Diego, and other cities have passed special sick-leave ordinances in addition to the Healthy Workplaces Healthy Family Act. In Los Angeles and Long Beach, for example, hotel workers qualify for specific paid leave benefits that other workers do not have. Investigate the rules in your specific city or ask your employer for more information.

Employer-Specific Sick Leave Policies California

Employers in California have the right to instate their own sick leave rules, as long as they at least meet the minimum requirements under state law. If an employer includes additional paid sick leave or related benefits in an employee handbook, that employer must legally fulfill its promised terms. Otherwise, a wronged employee may have the right to file a claim against the employer for unpaid sick leave wages or sick leave retaliation. Sick leave benefits can vary significantly from employer to employer, but all must provide at least one hour of paid sick leave per 30 hours worked.

Filing an Employment Claim in California

If your employer fails to provide paid sick leave, refuses to pay for valid days taken off, or if you were wrongfully terminated for using sick leave, you may have grounds to file an employment claim in California. A civil claim against your employer could help you obtain compensation for your missing wages and back pay, plus potential penalties or interest payments your employer might owe you. Discuss your case with a local employment attorney for more information.

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