The California Supreme Court recently ruled that employees are not entitled to unlimited time off to care for family members who are ill.
Under the California Kin Care law implemented in 1999, employers that offer accrued sick leave to workers must allow employees to use up to half their annual total to care for a spouse, child, parent or domestic partner who is ill.
Then as now, there is no requirement under the law that any California employer must provide sick leave to employees. However, for employers who choose to offer this benefit, the law addresses how it may be used.
In a rare unanimous ruling, the court found that the California Kin Care law applies only when a company awards a specific amount of sick leave, and that sick leave can be accrued.
The trend among some larger companies is to offer employees unlimited sick leave, especially under certain collective bargaining agreements.
Applauding the victory for California employers, attorney Anthony Oncidi noted that the law was a “perfect example” of a well-meaning law that resulted in abuse by employees. He noted that many California companies had actually reduced or eliminated sick leave policies, due to the previous restrictions.
In the test case involving telephone company AT&T, Inc., the employer provided up to 5 days of paid sick leave for a legitimate illness in any 7-day period. The sick leave period reset each time the employee returned to work, under a collective bargaining agreement. (more…)
Here’s some more facts on that San Francisco mandatory paid leave law, the first law of its kind in the country—local, state or federal—to mandate that employers have to give their employees paid time off for sick leave.
And speaking of the facts—the facts of the San Fran law are that companies must give their employees at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours that they work—for an ultimate total of between 40 to 72 hours of paid sick leave, depending on how large the employer is.
No matter the size of the employer, however, the law might be creating such a strain for them that the city Supervisor, Sean Elsbernd, has said that he is planning a proposal that would ease up the law for the time being on employers in the city. The reason is that the city itself has not figured out how to enforce the new requirements, even though the law is already in effect. A big issue is regarding employers that are located outside of the city, but have employees working in San Francisco on projects and such.
Elsbernd’s proposal is still not approved, so employers in San Fran should still be keeping track of how many hours their employees are working and how much sick time they are building up. Even if the proposal is passed, in fact, employers will still need to do that. What the proposal would do is make it so that employers would not have to pay employees for their time off until June 5, and they would not be liable for any issues or financial penalties until June 5.
Of course, if employers are proven to be completely neglecting the law, or circumventing it in any way, this grace period would not hold for them.
While I am on the topic of these new sick leave laws that seem to be sprouting up in states across the country—although not quite as quickly or as prominently as these minimum wage increase laws—we should talk about the one place where these laws have actually become a reality—as I was saying before, in San Francisco.
The new paid sick-leave law—as these laws seem to be called now—was passed by the city’s voters back in November 2006. About 61 percent of the voting population OKed the law. The law as it was passed mandates that all employers must give their employees paid sick leave if they work within the city.
As with many of these new labor laws that seem to be getting passed—such as new health care requirements for employers or the increases of the minimum wage (or even these living wage laws that are getting passed in such places as Maryland)—small employers like us often say that these laws will cost them the most, that such laws will take their toll on small employers and make it harder for them to hire new employees, or even keep the employees that we already have.
The new law in San Francisco is estimated to be affected more than 100,000 businesses in the city limits, but we cannot know how many of those businesses are small employers who are straining to meet the requirements of the law. And I am not here to fathom a guess, nor will I complain or take sides in the issue in San Francisco. Remember, folks, I am here just to report the news and give you insights on the laws that you might not find somewhere else, and hopefully I am accomplishing my goals. If not, let me hear it!