City of Los Angeles Passes Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Ordinance for Large Employers

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April 13, 2020

On April 7, 2020, the City of Los Angeles adopted its own ordinance to provide expanded COVID-19 related sick leave benefits for employees of larger employers that are not covered by the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”).  Employees who have been employed with the same covered employer (with 500 or more employees in the City or 2,000 or more nationally) from February 3 to March 4, 2020, and who perform work for that employer in City boundaries are eligible for supplemental paid sick leave.

Full-time employees (who work at least 40 hours per week or are otherwise classified by the employer as full-time) receive 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave, which is calculated based on the average two-week pay from February 3 to March 4, 2020.  Other employees receive supplemental paid sick leave in an amount no greater than the average two-week pay from February 3 to March 4, 2020.  The amount to be paid is capped at $511 per day, and $5,110 in the aggregate.

These supplemental paid sick leave benefits are in addition to any other paid sick leave mandated by California and/or Los Angeles.  However, if employers have already provided COVID-19 related paid sick leave since March 4, 2020, any hour of such leave already provided will be offset against the 80-hour requirement.  If an employer or employee is covered under both the FFCRA and this ordinance, Los Angeles’ supplemental paid sick leave will run concurrently with any paid sick leave under the FFCRA.

An employee may take supplemental paid sick leave if the employee is unable to work or telework for the following reasons:  1) The employee has COVID-19 or a public health official or healthcare provider requires or recommends the employee isolate or self-quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19; 2) The employee takes time off 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; 3) The employee needs to care for a family member who is not sick, but who public health officials or healthcare providers have required or recommended isolation or self-quarantine; or 4) The employee needs to provide care for a family member whose senior care provider or whose school or child care provider caring for a minor child has temporarily closed in response to COVID-19.  To receive supplemental paid sick leave, the employee must be unable to secure a reasonable alternative caregiver.

An employer cannot require a doctor’s note or other documentation for this supplemental paid sick leave, and employees cannot waive their right to any or all of the provisions of the ordinance.

Emergency personnel and healthcare workers are exempt from this ordinance.  “Emergency personnel” refers to individuals specified in the April 1, 2020 City of Los Angeles Safer at Home emergency order Paragraph 5(vi), including all first responders, gang and crisis intervention workers, public health workers, emergency management personnel, emergency dispatchers, law enforcement personnel, and related contractors and others working for emergency services providers.  “Healthcare workers” shall encompass individuals described in California Government Code section 12945.2(c)(6) or individuals, including contract workers, working at a health facility licensed under California Health & Safety Code section 1250.

Certain other employers are also exempt from providing supplemental paid sick leave, including:  1) Critical parcel delivery employees; 2) Employers who have a paid leave or paid time off policy that provides a minimum of 160 hours of paid leave annually; 3) New businesses that started in the City or relocated to the City on or after September 4, 2019 through March 4, 2020, with certain exceptions; 4) Government agencies; and 5) Businesses that were closed or not operating for at least 14 days due to a city official’s emergency order related to COVID-19 or who provided at least 14 days of leave.

Collective bargaining agreements in effect on April 7, 2020 supersede the ordinance if they contain COVID-19 related sick leave provisions, but if not, the employer must comply with the ordinance until the collective bargaining agreement is amended to expressly waive the ordinance’s provisions.

Employers are prohibited from discharging, reducing the compensation of, or otherwise discriminating against any employee who requests or uses the supplemental paid sick leave, who participates in proceedings related to the ordinance, who opposes a practice proscribed by the ordinance, or who seeks to enforce or assert rights under the ordinance.  Employees can bring a private right of action for violations, and can seek civil remedies including reinstatement, back-pay and supplemental paid sick leave unlawfully withheld (calculated at the employee’s average rate of pay), and attorneys’ fees and costs, as well as any other legal or equitable relief a court may deem appropriate.

The ordinance is effective immediately and will be in effect until two weeks after the COVID-19 local emergency period ends.

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This article is based on the law as of the date posted at the top of the article.  This article does not constitute the provision of legal advice, and does not by itself create an attorney-client relationship with Eskridge Law.