On March 27, 2020, the Los Angeles City Council approved a new paid sick leave ordinance (L.A. Ordinance), to remain in effect until December 31, 2020, which supplements federal bill H.R. 6201, known as the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The FFCRA provides for paid sick leave and paid family leave entitlements to companies with fewer than 500 employees.
Existing Los Angeles City paid sick leave laws already surpassed California state law mandates by providing twice the minimum allotment under state law. Under the existing Los Angeles City paid sick leave ordinance, employers were already required to provide employees with at least 48 hours (six days) of paid sick leave or one hour for every 30 hours worked.
The L.A. Ordinance now seeks to “bridge the gap” in the FFCRA, requiring employers in Los Angeles with 500 or more employees nationally to provide two weeks of additional paid sick leave to their employees who perform any work within the geographic boundaries of the city of Los Angeles. Employees who have been employed with the same employer from February 3, 2020, through March 4, 2020, are entitled to supplemental paid sick leave as follows.
- An employee who works at least 40 hours per week or is classified as a full-time employee shall receive 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave, calculated based on an employee’s average two-week pay over the period of February 3, 2020, through March 4, 2020.
- An employee who works less than 40 hours per week and is not classified as a full-time employee shall receive supplemental paid sick leave in an amount equal to the employee’s average two- week pay over the period of February 3, 2020, through March 4, 2020.
The L.A. Ordinance provides a payment cap per employee of $511 a day and $5,110 in the aggregate. The supplemental sick leave is in addition to what employers are already mandated to provide. Per the L.A. Ordinance, the reasons for providing supplemental sick leave are triggered upon an oral or written request by the employee if:
- The employee takes time off work because a public health official or health care provider requires or recommends the employee isolate or self-quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19;
- The employee takes time off work because the employee is at least 65 years old or has a health condition such as heart disease, asthma, lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease, or weakened immune system;
- The employee takes time off work because the employee needs to care for a family member who is not sick but who public health officials or health care providers have required or recommended isolation or self-quarantine;
- The employee takes time off work because the employee needs to provide care for a family member whose senior care provider or whose school or childcare provider caring for a child under the age of 18 temporarily ceases operations in response to a public health or other public official’s recommendation.
Employers cannot require a doctor’s note or other documentation to provide the supplemental sick leave. However, the supplemental sick leave can be offset by every hour an employer allowed an employee to take paid leave, not including previously accrued hours, on or after March 4, 2020, for any of the reasons described above.
Notably, the qualifying events listed above differ slightly from the FFCRA. Also, under the FFCRA, certain qualifying events for paid sick leave are to be paid at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate subject to applicable caps. The L.A. Ordinance contains the same pay caps but does not provide a reduced pay rate for the above qualifying events and does not extend the federal tax credits and reimbursements available to employers under the FFCRA.
The L.A. Ordinance creates a private right of action for employers who fail to comply and includes anti-retaliation provisions.
The L.A. Ordinance includes narrow exemptions for employers in a first responder or health care provider category and certain employers with collective bargaining agreements.
First responders are defined as employees of a state or public agency who provide emergency response services, including peace officers, firefighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, public safety dispatchers or safety telecommunicators, emergency response communication employees, and rescue service personnel. Health care providers are defined by the California Government Code, and include physicians, surgeons, and other persons capable of providing health care services under the Family Medical Leave Act.
Moreover, the L.A. Ordinance may be expressly waived in part or entirely in a collective bargaining agreement, but only if the waiver is explicitly set forth in the agreement in clear and unambiguous terms. Unilateral implementation of terms and conditions of employment by either party to a collective bargaining relationship, cannot, however, be permitted to waive any provision of the L.A. Ordinance.
Employers in Los Angeles with more than 500 employees nationwide should contact their Reed Smith Labor and Employment attorneys immediately to discuss the impacts and implications of the new L.A. Ordinance.