Los Angeles Approves Minimum Wage Increases and Mandates Employers to Provide 48 Hours of Paid Sick Leave

Los Angeles Approves Minimum Wage Increases and Mandates Employers to Provide 48 Hours of Paid Sick Leave

Employers in the City of Los Angeles will need to review their current minimum wage and paid sick leave policies to ensure they comply with the new City ordinance increasing the minimum wage and extending paid sick leave benefits to employees working in the City.

On June 1, 2016, the Los Angeles City Council voted in favor of requiring employers in the City to provide their employees with 48 hours of paid sick leave, double the mandatory minimum under California’s statewide paid sick leave law, and approving future increases of the minimum wage. Ordinance No. 184320 goes into effect on July 1, 2016.

Minimum Wage Increases

Beginning on the dates below, employers with at least 26 employees must provide the following minimum wage rates:

  • July 1, 2016: $10.50/hour
  • July 1, 2017: $12.00/hour
  • July 1, 2018: $13.25/hour
  • July 1, 2019: $14.25/hour
  • July 1, 2020: $15.00/hour

On July 1, 2022, and annually thereafter, the minimum wage will increase based on the Consumer Price Index. Employers with 25 or fewer employees will have an extra year to comply with the increases.

Paid Sick Leave Requirements

Who is covered?

Every employee who, on or after July 1, 2016, works in the City for the same employer for at least 30 days within a year from the commencement of employment is entitled to paid sick leave. The Ordinance defines “employee,” in part, as any individual who in a particular week performs at least two hours of work within the geographic boundaries of the City.

Under the Ordinance, an “employer” is “any person, as defined in Section 18 of the California Labor Code, including a corporate officer or executive, who directly or indirectly or through an agent or any other person, including through the services of a temporary service or staffing agency or similar entity, employs or exercises control over the wages, hours or working conditions of the Employee.” This potentially may make corporate officers and executives individually responsible for providing sick leave.

The Ordinance does not provide any exemption for workers subject to a collective bargaining agreement.

How much sick leave is required and can employers limit the amount used?

Employees will be entitled to take up to 48 hours of sick leave in each year of employment, calendar year, or 12-month period. Like the California state law, employers may choose to provide the entire 48 hours of paid sick leave up front (“grant method”) in each year of employment, calendar year, or 12-month period, or employers may use an accrual method such that sick leave accrues at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. Accrued paid sick leave must carry over to the following year of employment, but may be capped at 72 hours.

Employers who provide an amount of paid leave or paid time off, or provide payment for compensated time off, that is equal to or no less than 48 hours are not required to provide additional time.

When do employees begin to accrue paid sick leave?

Employees accrue paid sick leave on the first day of employment or July 1, 2016, whichever is later.

When can employees start using paid sick leave?

Employees may use paid sick leave beginning on the 90th day of employment or July 1, 2016, whichever is later.

For what reasons can an employee use paid sick leave?

Employees may use paid sick leave for their own medical care and for the medical care of certain covered family members for the same reasons paid sick leave must be provided under state law, i.e., for preventive care or diagnosis, care, or treatment of an existing health condition, or for certain purposes as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

In addition to allowing paid sick leave to be used for the care of family members defined under state law, the Ordinance also allows for use of paid sick leave for “any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.”

Can employers set restrictions on the use of paid sick leave?

Employers must provide paid sick leave upon the oral or written request of an employee. Employers may require an employee to provide reasonable documentation of an absence from work for which paid sick leave is or will be used. The state paid sick leave law is silent regarding whether an employer can require documentation regarding absences.

Do employers have to pay out unused, accrued paid leave upon termination?

Employers are not required to pay out earned sick leave upon termination of employment if the earned sick leave is separate and distinct from a paid time off or vacation plan. However, if an employee is rehired within a year from the date of separation, previously used and unused paid sick time must be reinstated.

What are the posting and notice requirements?

Every employer shall post at the workplace or job site the notice published each year by the City informing employees of the current City minimum wage rates, sick time benefits and of their rights under the Ordinance. The notice must be posted in any language which is spoken by at least 5% of the employees at the workplace or job site.

Every employer also must provide at the time this Ordinance becomes effective or at the time of hire, whichever is later, the Employer’s name, address, and telephone number in writing.

Implementation and Enforcement

The Office of Wage Standards of the Bureau of Contract Administration (designated the “DAA”) may issue guidelines and rules to implement the law. If the DAA determines that the employer’s established policy is more generous overall, the DAA may allow an employer’s established paid leave or paid time off policy or one which provides payment for compensated time off to remain in place and deemed in compliance with the Ordinance even though it does not meet all of the requirements of the Ordinance.

The Office of Wage Standards of the Bureau of Contract Administration within the Department of Public Works shall be responsible for enforcement of the Ordinance.

Employees may not waive their rights under the Ordinance.

Retaliation

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees for requesting or using paid sick leave. Retaliation may include discharge, reduction in compensation, or other forms of discrimination.

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Employers with operations in the City of Los Angeles should carefully review the Ordinance, their minimum wage rates, as well as policies and practices related to paid sick leave.

Employers should regularly review their policies and practices with employment counsel to ensure they effectively address specific organizational needs and comply with all applicable laws. Please contact Jackson Lewis with any legal questions about the Ordinance.

Employee Who Failed to Provide Additional Doctor Notes to Support New Restrictions May Still Survive Summary Judgment

Last week, in Thomsen v. Georgia-Pacific Corrugated, LLC, a federal district court in California held that an employer might have violated its obligations under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) when it simply told an employee to return to his doctor to obtain a note outlining additional work restrictions.   The Court held that a reasonable jury could find that the employer was obligated to do more than tell the Plaintiff to go back to his physician and get a new doctor’s note, especially because evidence suggested it would have been possible to respond to some of Plaintiff’s concerns without a new doctor’s note.

The Facts

Plaintiff worked as a cut-and-die operator at a corrugated container plant. In May 2012, Plaintiff injured his shoulder at work, went on workers’ compensation leave, and returned to work eight months later after undergoing surgery on his left shoulder. Read More

High Heat Alert in California

On June 1, 2016, The California Occupational Safety and Health Division issued a “High Heat Advisory,” warning employers to protect their outdoor workers from heat illness as temperatures hit extreme highs this week — well over 100 degrees in many locations. This Advisory provides a timely reminder of California’s Heat Illness Prevention (“HIP”) regulation, adopted last year, which set specific requirements for potable water, shade, cool-down periods, high-heat procedures, emergency preparedness, and acclimatization, training, and heat illness prevention plans. Here’s a summary of the HIP regulation’s key requirements:

Potable Water Requirements

Employers must provide employees with access to potable drinking water that is fresh, pure, suitably cool, and provided free of charge to employees and should be located as close as practicable to the areas where employees are working, unless the employer can demonstrate infeasibility.  The employer must provide each employee with a minimum of one quart of water per hour for the entire shift. Read More

Employers Beware of Phishing Scams

On April 20, 2016, a class action lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court, Southern District of California against Sprouts Farmers Market, Inc. The lawsuit was initiated by a former employee whose W-2 was allegedly disclosed as part of a phishing scam that occurred in late March 2016 amid reports that Sprouts’ employees had their IRS tax refunds stolen. According to the complaint, the W-2s of Sprouts’ employees were disclosed to a third party as a result of the phishing scam.

This sort of internet scam, referred to as “phishing,” occurs when someone attempts to acquire sensitive or confidential information under the guise of a legitimate request. For the average internet user, phishing scams often come in the form of a fake email from a bank or other financial institution asking you to click on a link to confirm your password on a web site that looks like a legitimate web site for the business. The fake web site often uses the actual logos and branding from a legitimate site to trick the user. Read More

WHAT’S ON YOUR WAGE STATEMENTS?

California has many requirements for the content of an employee wage statement, including this year’s new requirements for employees paid by a piece rate. Employees paid by piece rates must be separately compensated for rest and recovery periods and, where the employee does not earn at least minimum wage in addition to the piece rate, must be separately paid for non-productive time.  The amount of time for these periods, the applicable rates of pay, and gross wages for these periods is required to be on the wage statement.  Read More

California Teacher Tenure Laws Upheld by Appellate Court

Overturning a trial court ruling, the California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District held that teacher tenure laws are constitutional in the case of Vergara v. State of California, decided April 14, 2016.

The case involves nine public school students who challenged several provisions of California’s Education Code that govern K-12 public school teachers’ employment. The basis of the challenge is that the tenure, dismissal, and layoff laws result in grossly ineffective teachers being transferred to lower-performing schools with predominantly minority and low-income populations, rather than being terminated; and that; therefore, those students receive an inferior education.  Several associations representing school boards, school superintendents, and school administrators filed amicus briefs in support of the students’ position that the laws are unconstitutional. Read More

Los Angeles City Council Votes to Expand Paid Sick Leave

The Los Angeles City Council voted 13-1 in favor of a proposed ordinance that would permit Los Angeles workers to earn at least six paid sick leave days annually. The new paid sick leave entitlement would double the mandatory minimum under California’s statewide paid sick leave law.

The proposed ordinance, which still needs to be drafted by the City Attorney’s Office before final approval, would take effect July 1, 2016. Businesses with 25 employees or fewer would have an additional year to comply with the new requirement.

In general, an employee would be entitled to the paid sick leave if, on or after July 1, 2016, the employee works in the City of Los Angeles for the same employer for 30 days or more within a year.   Read More

California Court of Appeal Expands FEHA’s Reasonable Accommodation Requirements to Employees Who are Associated with a Person with Disabilities

In Castro-Ramirez v. Dependable Highway Express, Inc., decided April 4, 2016, the California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District held California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who are associated with a person with disabilities.

Plaintiff Luis Castro-Ramirez’s son was in need of a kidney transplant, required daily dialysis, and Ramirez was the only member of his family capable of operating the dialysis machine.  Ramirez drove a delivery truck for Dependable Highway Express, Inc. (DHE).  When he began his employment in 2010, he informed his supervisor that he needed to be assigned schedules that would permit him to be home in the evening to administer his son’s dialysis.  Read More

Governor Brown Expands Paid Family-leave Benefits

In 2004, California enacted the nation’s first paid family leave program, offering up to six weeks of paid leave to workers who need to care for a new baby or an ill family member.  The program was financed through disability insurance taxes paid by employees through payroll withholdings.  The 2004 program paid 55 percent of the employee’s wages, up to a set maximum of about $1,100 per week. Read More

The California Supreme Court Finally Weighs In on Suitable Seating

On April 4, 2016, the California Supreme Court took a stand by issuing a long-awaited opinion in Kirby v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc.  The decision clarifies certain ambiguities in an employer’s obligation to provide suitable seating to employees.  At issue was a provision in California’s Wage Orders that requires employers to provide all employees “with suitable seats when the nature of the work reasonably permits the use of seats.”  The Court held that “nature of the work” refers to the task performed at a given location where the employee is claiming a right to a suitable seat, instead of a holistic approach.  The Court also adopted a “totality of the circumstances” test to assess whether a work location “reasonably permits” suitable seating.

Background

Kirby v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc. arises from a putative class actions filed by a cashier and bank teller. The plaintiffs alleged their employer violated the suitable seating provision in various California Wage Orders by failing to provide seats. The plaintiffs appealed unfavorable district court decisions to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The Ninth Circuit requested clarification from the California Supreme Court on the proper interpretation of three areas of the suitable seating provision, including the meaning of “nature of work” and “reasonably permits,” and who bears the burden to show suitable seating is available. Read More

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