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California Provides Employees With COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave For 2021

On March 19, 2021, California provided employees in the Golden State with additional COVID-19 paid sick leave for 2021.  Here are the details.

The New Law.  COVID-19 paid sick leave for 2021 is in California Labor Code §§ 248.2 and 248.3

Amount Of Leave.  All employers with more than 25 employees must provide California employees up to 80 hours of COVID-19 paid sick leave on top of other mandatory California paid sick leave.

Who Qualifies.  Employees qualify for COVID-19 paid sick leave if they are not able to work or work remotely because they need to:  (1) care for themselves due to quarantine, isolation, COVID-19 symptoms or they are seeking a medical diagnosis; (2) care for family members subject to quarantine or isolation; (3) care for a child due to COVID-19 school or childcare closures; or (4) attend vaccine appointments or encounter vaccine-related symptoms.  General “stay at home orders” do not qualify for COVID-19 paid sick leave.

Retroactive.  COVID-19 paid sick leave is retroactive to January 1, 2021.  Employees that took leave between January 1, 2021 and March 28, 2021, for a “qualifying reason” have the right to ask their employer for a “retroactive” payment.  Employers must pay the “retroactive” COVID-19 paid sick leave by the next payday for the next full pay period and provide an accurate pay stub of how many COVID-19 paid sick leave hours remain available.

Asking For Paid Leave.  Employees may request COVID-19 paid sick leave either verbally or in writing.

Anti-Retaliation.  California Labor Code § 6409.6(f) already says that employers “shall not retaliate against a worker for disclosing a positive COVID-19 test or diagnosis or order to quarantine or isolate.”  This bolsters protections for employees who use COVID-19 paid sick leave.

Amount Of Pay.  The COVID-19 paid sick leave compensation rate for an hourly employee is the highest of their:  (1) regular rate of pay for the pay period in which the COVID-19 paid sick leave is taken, (2) the state minimum wage, or (3) the local minimum wage to which the covered employee is entitled, a formula based on the employee’s total wages divided by regular (but not overtime) hours worked in the preceding 90 day period, up to $511/day or a total of $5,110.  Employers cannot require employees to use State Disability Insurance (SDI) benefits instead of COVID-19 paid sick leave.

FAQ & Poster.  The California Labor Commission published a FAQ with formulas used to determine the pay, and a mandatory poster for posting or electronic distribution.

For more, see Colby Law Firm’s page on Time Off Work.

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Current or former employees with questions about their own situation should contact Colby Law Firm.

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