As California employers are aware, the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (Labor Code section 245, et seq.) went into effect this year. Under the Act, employers may choose between granting sick leave under an “up-front” method or an accrual method. Employers are permitted to offer more sick leave than the Act requires, but must meet certain minimum leave requirements. As employers prepared for July 1, 2015, the date on which employees became eligible to use and accrue sick leave under the new law, many were struck by how little guidance the new law provided for the realities of the workplace.
On August 7, 2015, the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement (“DLSE”) issued an opinion letter, providing employers with much-needed guidance on one specific issue. Labor Code section 246(b)(4) requires employers to provide “not less than 24 hours or three days of paid sick leave” to employees. The DLSE was presented with the question of whether an employer that follows the “up-front” method must provide 30 hours of sick leave to employees who work 10-hour shifts, or whether a “day” is considered 8 hours. The DLSE responded that the employer must provide 30 hours under this circumstance, explaining that in order to give effect to the minimum standards of the Act, the employer must grant either 24 hours or three days, whichever grants more leave to the employee. Thus, if an employee’s normal work day is only six hours, s/he must be granted a minimum of 24 hours rather than 18.
The opinion letter indicates that, as expected, the law will be interpreted broadly in favor of employees. Hopefully, the DLSE will continue to issue guidance on other issues, such as whether the 30 days before an employee is entitled to sick leave is measured by working days or calendar days, and whether overtime hours must be used to calculate hours in a “normal” work day.