California’s Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act Covers COVID-19, Too
California currently has a patchwork of local COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave ordinances which remain in effect in 2021. But what about employers that are not located in those localities with a supplemental paid sick leave ordinance? Or employees who have exhausted supplement paid sick leave allotments?
Before the pandemic, California had the Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act of 2014 (the Act), which mandated most employers in the state provide paid sick leave to employees. Under the Act, employers must provide for the accrual of one hour for every 30 hours worked by the employee and allow the use of at least 24 hours or provide a lump sum of 24 hours of paid sick leave at the beginning of a 12-month period.
Under the Act, an employee can take paid leave for the employee’s own or a family member’s diagnosis, care, treatment of an existing health condition or preventive care, or for specified purposes for an employee who is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
When the pandemic began, unique circumstances such as the need for employees to quarantine arose, and it was not clear if employers could permit employees to use paid sick leave for those circumstances.
The California Labor Commissioner’s Office, which enforces the Act and other labor laws, released an FAQ regarding COVID-19 shortly after California’s first shelter in place orders in March 2020. As California nears the year anniversary of the shelter in place orders, the FAQ is still relevant and important to review.
Employees may use paid sick leave under the Act for the following COVID-19 related reasons:
Illness due to COVID-19
Seeking diagnosis of COVID-19
Self-quarantining due to potential exposure
Caring for a family member who has COVID-19