Last week, San Francisco announced expanded eligibility for paid sick leave under its Paid Sick Leave Ordinance and announced the Workers and Families First Program, which provides city-funded additional sick leave pay for employees working in San Francisco.

Expanded Use of Paid Sick Leave

Since late 2006, San Francisco has had its own Paid Sick Leave Ordinance. The ordinance requires employers to provide paid sick leave (“PSL”) to all employees (including temporary and part-time employees) who perform work in San Francisco.  San Francisco’s PSL can be used by an employee when they or a family member are ill, injured, or for the purpose of receiving medical care (including preventive care), treatment, diagnosis, or other medical reason.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, San Francisco expanded its Paid Sick Leave Ordinance to allow covered employees to use accrued sick leave in the following situations:

  • The employee takes time off work because public health officials or healthcare providers require or recommend an employee isolate or quarantine to prevent the spread of disease;
  • The employee is not working because the employee falls within the definition of a “vulnerable population” under the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s (DPH) March 6, 2020 guidelines or any subsequent updates.  As of March 6, 2020, a “vulnerable population” is a person who is 60 years old or older or a person with a health condition such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease, or weakened immune system;
  • The employee takes time off work because the employee’s business or a work location temporarily ceases operations in response to a public health or other public official’s recommendation – subject to the “Eligibility for Paid Sick Leave” guidelines above;
  • The employee takes time off work because the employee needs to provide care for a family member who is not sick but who public health officials or healthcare providers have required or recommended isolate or quarantine; or
  • The employee takes time off work because the employee needs to provide care for a family member whose school, childcare provider, senior care provider, or work temporarily ceases operations in response to a public health or other public official’s recommendation.

In addition to expanding the uses of accrued Sick Leave, on March 24, 2020, San Francisco’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE) issued the following guidance regarding the use of San Francisco paid sick leave during the current local health emergency:

  • San Francisco has temporarily suspended Employers from requiring a doctor’s note or other documentation from Employees who use the Paid Sick Leave for COVID-19 reasons for the duration of the COVID-19 Local Health Emergency.
  • Only present employees are eligible for San Francisco’s Paid Sick Leave. Workers that have been laid off by their employer are no longer eligible for paid sick leave.
  • Employees who have their hours reduced or eliminated are not entitled to use accrued paid sick leave to account for such reductions or eliminations.  Employees who remain scheduled to work may continue to use their accrued paid sick leave for any qualifying reason for any portion of their scheduled hours they are unable to work.
  • Employers are not required to pay employees for accrued unused paid sick leave upon the employee’s separation from employment.  However, if an employer is using a Paid Time Off or vacation policy to comply with the Ordinance, California law requires the payout of PTO or vacation upon separation of an employee.
  • If there is a separation from employment, and an employee is later rehired by the employer within one year, previously accrued and unused paid sick leave must be reinstated, and the employee is entitled to use the previously accrued and unused paid sick leave and to accrue additional paid sick leave upon rehiring.

Workers and Families First Program

In addition to amending its Paid Sick Leave Law, San Francisco announced the Workers and Families First Program (“Program”).  This Program will provide PSL to private-sector employees who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Program includes $10 million in public funding to provide businesses and nonprofits with an additional five days of sick leave pay to employees beyond their existing employer-provided policies.  All San Francisco businesses will be eligible, with up to 20% of funds reserved for small businesses with 50 or fewer employees. The City contributes up to one week (40 hours) at $15.59 per hour (minimum wage) per employee. The employer will pay the difference between the minimum wage and an employee’s full hourly wage.

This Program will be available only if the employee has exhausted their currently available sick leave; has exhausted or is not eligible for federal or state supplemental sick leave, and the employer agrees to extend sick leave beyond current benefits.  Employers must apply with the City to participate in this Program.

The Office of Economic and Workforce Development and the Human Services Agency will administer this Program.

The City also announced a policy allowing public workers an advance of their paid time off in the event that they cannot work due to COVID-19 and related public health recommendations as well as promising $2.5 million to support working artists and arts organizations impacted by COVID-19.

Jackson Lewis’ Coronavirus Task Force is actively monitoring the developing situation surrounding the complexities of COVID-19. If you need assistance determining whether your business may remain open or require other assistance navigating the complexities of COVID-19 and the workplace, please contact a Jackson Lewis attorney to discuss.