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California Brings Back COVID Paid Sick Leave

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As of February 19, many workers in California can apply again for COVID-related paid sick leave.

Santa Clara, CAMany California workers can apply once again for COVID-related paid sick leave. Legislation approved by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in February states that people who work for public or private companies that have 26 or more employees are entitled to up to 80 hours of COVID-related paid sick leave retroactive to January 1 and extending through September 30, 2022.

The supplementary COVID sick pay legislation differs from last year. Instead of receiving an automatic two weeks of paid sick leave, this time around full-time employees or individuals whose work week averages 40 hours can still apply for up to 80 total hours of COVID-related sick pay. Those 80 hours, however, are split into two types of 40 hours each, depending on the circumstances. Some workers can even apply for both types during the same week, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Employee Compensation Rate

Assembly Bill 84 specifies that employees would be compensated based on their regular rate of pay. The employee's compensation would be no more than $511 per day or $5,110 in total, according to the bill's text, reports to Law360. Non-exempt employees would be compensated for each hour of COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave they take based on their highest rate, based on specific calculation methods. The rate is either calculated in the same way as the regular rate of pay for the workweek during which they take the COVID-19 leave; or by dividing the total wages — not including overtime — by the total hours worked in the last 90 days; or based on state or local minimum wage. The bill states that exempt employees would be paid during the supplement paid sick leave based on how they calculate wages for other forms of paid leave.

Takeaway eligibility information:

Employers: The 2022 CSPSL applies to all employers, public or private, with 26 or more employees, including those with collective bargaining agreements.

Employees: Covered employees are defined as an employee who is unable to work or telework for an employer due to a covered reason. Part-time and full-time employees are covered, but the law does not apply to independent contractors.

An employer’s obligation to make 2022 CSPSL leave available to an employee occurs only upon an oral or written request given by the employee to the employer after February 19, 2022. An employer is required to post a notice in each workplace regarding the 2022 CSPSL law.

Covered reasons and use of 2022 CSPSL

SB 114 creates “two separate banks of leave,” each of up to 40 hours. The first leave bank provides up to 40 hours of leave to covered employees who are unable to work or telework due to:

Quarantine or isolation reasons:
  • The employee is caring for themselves or a family member due to a quarantine or isolation period pursuant to an order or guidance of a) the California Department of Public Health, b) the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or c) a local public health officer with jurisdiction over the workplace;
  • The employee or a family member the employee cares for has been advised by a healthcare provider to quarantine due to COVID-19;
  • Employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking a medical diagnosis; or
  • Employee is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed due to the presence of COVID-19 on the premises.
Vaccine-related reasons: 
  • The employee is attending a COVID-19 vaccine or booster appointment for themselves or a family member or is recovering from or caring for a family member who is recovering from vaccine-related symptoms.
The second leave bank provides up to an additional 40 hours of leave to covered employees for the following reasons:
  • Positive COVID-19 test: The employee tests positive for COVID-19 or is caring for a family member who tests positive for COVID-19.
  • Retroactivity requirement and requests for 2022 CSPSL
The California Department of Industrial Relations has published FAQs to assist employers with compliance obligations. And here are two pertinent questions reported by the San Francisco Chronicle:

What if I or a family member tested positive for COVID and took time off before the new legislation went into effect Feb. 19?

If you took unpaid leave or were paid at a lesser rate for taking time off because of one of the reasons listed above between Jan. 1 and Feb. 19 this year, you can request retroactive pay, state officials said.

“Payment is at the employee’s regular or usual rate of pay, not to exceed $511 per day and $5,110 in total,” state officials wrote in a flyer about the new legislation. A Spanish version is available here.

How do I claim COVID paid sick leave if I qualify?

You can make a request to your employer for COVID paid sick leave in writing - an email or text message, for example - or verbally request the hours. Make sure you know in advance which type of leave bank you’ll be requesting from.


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