June 2, 2020

The city of Long Beach, California recently passed its own version of COVID-19 related paid sick leave, effective immediately.  Long Beach is the latest of several California cities that have enacted paid sick leave laws in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, joining localities such as Los Angeles (City and County), San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose.  (The State of California has also enacted paid sick leave laws relating to food sector workers.) While the Long Beach ordinance is similar to many of the other COVID-19 related paid sick leave laws, there are several key differences.

Covered Employers
The new law applies to employers with 500 or more employees nationally, who are not required (either in whole or in part) to provide paid sick leave benefits under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Eligible Employees
Eligible employees are those who perform any work in the city of Long Beach.  However, the law does not apply to healthcare providers, emergency responders, or government employees, and those working under a collective bargaining agreement in place on May 19, 2020 already providing COVID-19 paid sick leave may also be exempt.  Further, employees who receive at least 160 hours of annual paid sick leave (or other paid time off) from their employers are not eligible for this leave.

Qualifying Reasons for Leave
Employees may take COVID-19 paid sick leave for any of the following reasons, unless they are able to work from home and healthy enough to do so:

1) The employee is subject to quarantine or isolation by federal, state, or local order due to COVID-19, or is caring for someone who is quarantined or isolated due to COVID-19;

2) The employee is advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 or is caring for someone who is so advised by a healthcare provider;

3) The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking medical diagnosis; or

4) The employee is caring for a minor child because the child’s school, daycare, or childcare provider is closed or unavailable because of COVID-19 and the employee is unable to secure a reasonable alternative caregiver.

Amount of Leave and Pay
Full-time employees are entitled to 80 hours (two weeks) of paid sick leave, while part-time employees are entitled to an amount equal to the number of hours they work on average in a two-week period (based on the average number of hours worked per day in the six months before May 19, 2020).  This amount can be offset by any paid leave already provided by the employer on or after March 4, 2020 for COVID-19 related reasons (excluding previously accrued hours).

Employees are entitled to receive their regular rate of pay while on leave, except if they are using the leave to care for another, in which case they are entitled to 2/3 their regular rate.  The amount of pay is capped at $511 per day ($5,110 overall), or $200 per day ($2,000 overall) for “caregiver” leave.  Employees are not entitled to “cash out” any unused leave.

This leave is in addition to any other pre-existing paid leave provided by the employer, and employees do not have to use other leave before using this COVID-19 paid sick leave.  Notably, employers cannot change their paid time off policies on or after May 19, 2020, except to provide additional leave.

Requesting and Documenting Leave
If the need for leave is foreseeable, employers can require employees to follow reasonable notice procedures.  However, while employers can ask employees to identify the basis for the leave, they cannot require doctors’ notes or any other documentation to substantiate the absence.

The protections afforded by this COVID-19 paid sick leave law cannot be waived (other than valid collective bargaining agreement waivers).  Any waiver will be found contrary to public policy, void, and unenforceable.

Employers cannot discharge, reduce the pay of, or otherwise discriminate against any employee for opposing any practice the law proscribes, requesting to use or actually using leave, participating in proceedings related to the law, seeking to enforce rights under the law by any lawful means, or otherwise asserting rights under the law.  Employees also do not have to find a replacement before taking leave.

Employees can bring an action for a violation of this law, and can recover actual and punitive damages, as well as reinstatement, reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, and any other legal or equitable relief the court deems proper.

Need more information?
ESKRIDGE LAW may be contacted by phone (310/303-3951), by fax (310/303-3952) or by email (geskridge@eskridgelaw.net).  Please visit our website at eskridge.hv-dev.com.

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.