Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act - California Assembly Bill 1522
Commencing on July 1, 2015, all employers are required to provide employees working in the State of California with paid sick leave. Employees who are covered by the bill must work in California for 7 or more days in a calendar year and will earn no less than one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 24 hours annually. All employees are entitled to use the accrued sick days beginning on the 90th day of employment and the employer is required to provide an accounting of the paid sick leave for each pay period.
The bill was originally introduced in Assembly in January and later ordered to Senate on May 29, 2014. The intent of the drafters is clear in the preamble, which includes an acknowledgment that there are many workers in the state of California who do not have any paid sick days or have an inadequate number of paid sick days and specifically identifies that many of those employees are low-income workers. The bill is designed to promote the public health of Californians by allowing them time to care for themselves when ill, in order to lessen their recovery time and the chance of spreading an illness to other members of the workforce. In addition, the bill supports parents tending to their children when ill to promote a more speedy recovery, prevent more serious illness, and to improve a child’s overall mental and physical health. As drafted, the bill carves out time for employees to seek diagnosis, care or treatment of health conditions of the employee or the employee’s family member, or for leave related to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. This is a welcomed acknowledgment of the rising number of domestic violence incidents, as 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men in California experience rape, stalking or physical violence. See, California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, http://www.cpedv.org/Statistics last visited on 9/23/14. The bill includes language estimating that 175,000 days of work are missed each year due to domestic violence in the State of California. Family members covered by the bill are the employee’s child, spouse, registered domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild or sibling.
Critics of the bill have argued that it places an increased burden on employers, however, the bill does set its limits for the employees – while allowing any unused accrued sick days to carry over to the following year, the employer may limit the employees use of the paid sick days to 24 hours or 3 days in each calendar year. In addition, employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement that provides for paid sick days need not celebrate. The bill specifically identifies it as inapplicable to these employees.
The agency charged with enforcing the requirements under the Health Workplace, Healthy Families Act is the California Labor Commission and the agency would allow the Commission to investigate, mitigate, impose sanctions and allow either a commissioner or the Attorney General to recover specific civil penalties against any offenders.
The bill further creates a rebuttable presumption of unlawful retaliation where an employer denies an employee the right to use sick days and subsequently discharges, threatens to discharge, demotes, suspends or discriminates against the employee within 30 days of either the filing of or participation in a complaint by an employee. Monetary fines are also established for failing to post the bill’s requirements in a conspicuous area.