Los Angeles Likely to Be Fourth California City to Impose Unique Sick Pay Requirements

by Shannon Walpole

On Tuesday, April 19, 2016, the Los Angeles (LA) City Council voted 13-1 to introduce legislation that if passed will double the amount of paid sick leave employers will be required to provide for employees working in LA.

Under the California Healthy Families Act of 2014 that went into effect July of 2015, with very few exceptions, California employers, regardless of size or industry, are required to provide employees with up to 24 hours of paid sick leave per year.  Under the proposed LA ordinance, this number would jump to 48 hours for employees working in LA effective July of 2016, for employers with more than 25 employees, and July of 2017, for employers with 25 employees or less.

If passed (which appears likely based on the vote on the 19th) LA will become the fourth California city to expand the state sick leave requirements for employees working in their city limits, joining San Francisco, San Diego, and Oakland.

This move by LA is consistent with a trend by lawmakers at the state level to ensure that employees have access to paid time off when sick or caring for sick family members.  In addition to passing California Healthy Families in 2014, earlier this month, California also passed a law increasing the paid family leave benefit for employees.  While this does not have a direct impact on employers since paid family leave is a government provided benefit, it will indirectly impact employers as it will undoubtedly result in more employees taking time away from work.  Under the new California law, in 2018 employees will be eligible for 60-70% of their income (depending on income), up from 55%.

Bottom line: Given the current trend, it would not be unlikely to see similar sick leave ordinances in other cities across the state like San Jose or Sacramento.  Additionally, it would not be surprising if the State ultimately followed the lead of cities like LA and increased the required sick pay benefit statewide.

For now, the increasing number of unique laws regulating sick pay make it difficult for California employers to comply; especially, if they have operations in multiple locations in the state (or nationally).  Now is a good time for California employers of all sizes to look at their sick pay and leave policies to make sure they are compliant with state (and where appropriate city) law to minimize legal claims when employees need time away from work.  Additionally, employers with operations in multiple jurisdictions with unique sick leave requirements should evaluate the pros and cons of having a uniform policy which complies in all jurisdictions versus having unique policies by jurisdiction.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.