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City of Los Angeles Doubles Paid Sick Leave Entitlement Effective July 1, 2016

Mayor Eric Garcetti approved Los Angeles’ new sick leave entitlement ordinance on June 2, 2016.  The Ordinance will provide employees who work in the City of Los Angeles at least 2 hours per week with the ability to accrue and use up to 48 hours of sick leave per year, twice the amount provided by state law.  Enacted as an urgency matter, the new sick leave obligations become effective for employers on July 1, 2016.

Many of the requirements of the Ordinance track California’s existing sick leave law, but the following changes are unique to Los Angeles:

  • The Ordinance doubles the amount of sick leave for all employees, regardless of the size of the employer, and requires that employees be permitted to use up to 48 hours of accrued sick leave each year.
  • The Ordinance allows employers to cap yearly sick leave accrual and carryover at no less than 72 hours.
  •  With some limited exceptions, the Ordinance applies to all employees who work two or more hours during a particular week in the City of Los Angeles. It is unclear, however, how sick time will be calculated for an employee who works both inside and outside of Los Angeles, earning sick time under both state law and this Ordinance.
  •  The Ordinance expands upon the presumption of retaliation. Under California law, an adverse action taken within 30 days after exercise of rights is presumed to be retaliatory. Under the Ordinance, this window is expanded to 90 days.
  •  In one area beneficial to employers, the Ordinance explicitly allows an employer to request “reasonable documentation of an absence from work for which paid sick leave is being used.” It does not define “reasonable documentation” or the appropriate circumstances.
  •  Sick leave must be paid at no less than the newly implemented minimum wage rates set forth in the City’s Minimum Wage Ordinance, i.e., $10.50 an hour for employers of 26 or more employees.
  • The Ordinance expands the definition of a person for whom sick leave can be used, with the following, virtually unlimited, definition: “… for any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.”

Similar to the State law, the Ordinance allows employers to provide the entire 48 hours of sick leave in a lump sum, or the employer may use an accrual method, with employees accruing no less than one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked (including overtime hours) within the City of Los Angeles.  The Ordinance also allows employers to implement a 90-day waiting period before an employee may use sick leave.

Employers may satisfy the requirements of the Ordinance with existing sick leave, vacation, or paid time off policies if those policies meet or exceed the accrual requirements of the Ordinance and allow employees to use the leave for the same purposes and under the same conditions as paid sick leave under the Ordinance.

Employers that provide a lump sum of 24 hours of sick leave will have to determine whether to increase the lump sum to 48 hours, or to convert to an accrual method, keeping in mind the additional administrative burden since available sick time must be reflected on employee paystubs.

Written notice of any change in existing policy must be provided within 10 days of the implementation of the change, as well as posting notice regarding sick leave entitlement.  Notices must be in any language spoken by at least 5% of the employees at the workplace or job site.

Employers should contact their Labor and Employment counsel at Hill Farrer as soon as possible to ensure that any necessary policy updates can be made by July 1.