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California Passes COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Law

On September 9, California Governor Newsom signed a bill that establishes COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave (“COVID-19 PSL”) for California workers generally not covered by the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”).

Important Dates

Employers are required to begin providing COVID-19 PSL by September 19.

Employers must also post a notice in their workplace by September 19.  If employees are not physically present in the workplace, the employer may disseminate the notice electronically.

Starting in the first pay period after September 9, employers must provide notice in a wage statement (or a separate writing provided on pay day) of an employee’s available COVID-19 PSL each pay period.

The requirement to provide COVID-19 PSL expires on December 31, 2020 or upon the expiration of any federal extension of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act established by the FFCRA.

Covered Employers & Employees

California’s new law applies to private employers with 500 or more employees in the United States.  It also applies to any public or private entity that employs health care providers or emergency responders and that has elected to exclude such employees from emergency paid sick leave under the FFCRA.

Workers are entitled to COVID-19 PSL only if they are (1) employed by a covered employer AND (2) leave home to perform work for their employer.

Reasons for Leave

Employees are entitled to COVID-19 PSL when they are unable to work because they:

  • are subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related

U.S. Employers Weigh EEOC Guidance in Responding to Coronavirus

As the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues to spread, U.S. employers considering taking preventative measures to reduce transmission should bear in mind employment laws that may restrict certain precautions, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).

Basic precautionary measures like promoting washing hands, encouraging employees to stay home when they are sick, and other good hygiene practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) are unlikely to raise concerns under the ADA.  Indeed, recent guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) makes clear that the CDC’s guidelines and suggestions for employers regarding COVID-19 do not violate the ADA.

However, the ADA does prohibit covered employers from excluding individuals with disabilities from the workplace for health or safety reasons unless they pose a “direct threat” (i.e., a significant risk to the health or safety of others that can’t be eliminated by reasonable accommodation).

Nonetheless, it is likely permissible for employers to ask employees who travel to or from an area affected by COVID-19 to work from home or, if remote work is not possible, take leave for 14 days (the incubation period for COVID-19) because the employees pose a direct threat under the ADA.   Whether the leave period must be paid or can be unpaid depends mostly on the employee’s classification under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act as “exempt” or “non-exempt,” the particular state laws of the state in which the employee works, and the employer’s own sick leave policies.

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