Nicole Rice

Paid Sick Leave changes signed into law

By Nicole Rice, Policy Director, Government Relations

Capitol Update, July 17, 2015

On July 13th, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 304  (CMTA leg info | expanded info) a bill by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) that provides clarification to California’s new paid sick leave law, the “Healthy Workplace, Healthy Families Act of 2014” that took effect July 1, 2015.

AB 304 was introduced earlier this year to address outstanding issues arising from the recently enacted law and to ease its implementation. Having survived a few significant road bumps with employer stakeholders, the measure advanced through the Legislature and became law immediately after securing the Administration’s approval.

As outlined in the most recent legislative analysis, AB 304 makes the following changes:

Covered Individuals:

  • Provides that the definition of "employee" does not include specified retired annuitants;
  • Specifies that an “employee in the construction industry” means an employee performing work – deleting the reference to “onsite work” in the current provisions of the law; and
  • Clarifies that the law applies to an employee who works in California for the same employer for 30 or more days within a year.


Accrual Methods:

  • Provides that an employer may use a different accrual method provided that the accrual is on a regular basis so that an employee has no less than 24 hours of accrued sick leave or paid time off by the 120th calendar day of employment or each calendar year, or in each 12-month period; and
  • Provides that an employer may satisfy the accrual requirements of this section by providing not less than 24 hours or three days of paid sick leave that is available to the employee to use by the completion of his or her 120th calendar day of employment.


Existing Paid Sick Leave/Paid Time Off Policies:

  • Specifies that an employer is not required to provide additional paid sick days if the employer has a paid leave policy or paid time off policy, the employer makes available (beginning July 1, 2015) an amount of leave that may be used for the same purposes and under the same conditions, and the policy satisfies one of the following options:

a) Fulfills the accrual, carry over, and use requirements of the law;

b) Provides paid sick leave or paid time off to a class of employees before January 1, 2015, pursuant to a sick leave policy that used an accrual method different than providing one hour per every 30 hours worked, provided that the accrual is on a regular basis so that an employee, including an employee hired into that class after January 1, 2015, has no less than one day or eight hours of accrued leave within three months, and the employee was eligible to earn at least three days or 24 hours within nine months. If an employer modifies the accrual method used in the policy it had in place prior to January 1, 2015, the employer shall comply with any accrual method set forth in existing law or provide the full amount of leave at the beginning of the year. This does not prohibit the employer from increasing the accrual amount or rate; or

c) Sick leave or annual leave benefits provided to specified state employees or officers by statute or the provisions of a memorandum of understanding meet the requirements of the paid sick day’s law.


Calculation of Paid Sick Time:

  • Provides that an employer shall calculate paid sick leave using any of the following calculations:

a) Paid sick time for nonexempt employees shall be calculated in the same manner as the regular rate of pay for the workweek in which the employee uses paid sick time, whether or not the employee actually works overtime in that workweek;

b) Paid sick time for nonexempt employees shall be calculated by dividing the employee's total wages, not including overtime premium pay, by the employee's total hours worked in the full pay periods of the prior 90 days of employment; or

c) Paid sick time for exempt employees shall be calculated in the same manner as the employer calculates wages for other forms of paid leave time.


Additional Provisions:

  • Provides that an employer is not required to reinstate accrued paid time off to a rehired employee that was paid out at the time of termination, resignation, or separation of employment;
  • Provides that if an employer provides unlimited paid sick leave or unlimited paid time off, the employer may satisfy a specified written notice requirement of existing law by indicating on the notice or the employee's itemized wage statement that such leave is "unlimited";
  • Provides that an employer is not obligated to inquire into or record the purpose for which an employee uses paid leave or paid time off; and
  • Delays application of provisions related to the inclusion of the amount of paid sick leave available on itemized wage statements or separate writings until January 21, 2016, for employers in the broadcasting and motion picture industries.
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