June 3, 2020

Los Angeles County has passed its own version of COVID-19 related paid sick leave, effective as of April 28, 2020 (although the obligation to provide paid leave is retroactive to March 31, 2020) and in effect until December 31, 2020.  The County joins the City of Los Angeles and several other California cities (such as Long Beach, San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose) that have enacted paid sick leave laws in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.  (The State of California has also enacted paid sick leave laws relating to food sector workers.)

Covered Employers and Eligible Employees
The law applies to private employers with 500 or more employees nationally, and thus is not applicable to the small employers subject to the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Eligible employees include those employed on April 28, 2020 who perform work in the unincorporated parts of Los Angeles County.  There is a presumption that a worker is an employee, and employers have the burden of proving such workers are independent contractors instead.

Healthcare providers and emergency responders may be excluded at the employer’s option, and employees subject to a collective bargaining agreement may also be exempt.  The law also not apply to food sector workers covered under the state-wide ordinance.

Qualifying Reasons for Leave
An employee is eligible for the COVID-19 paid sick leave if the employee is unable to work or telework for any of the following reasons:

1) 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 is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 (stipulating the employee is at least 65 years old or has a health condition such as heart disease, asthma, lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease, or a weakened immune system);

3) The employee needs to care for a family member (defined as the employee’s child, parent, or spouse) who is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine order related to COVID-19 or has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19; or

4) The employee takes time off work because the employee needs to provide care for a family member whose school or child care provider ceases operations in response to a public health or other public official’s recommendation.

Amount of Leave and Pay
Full-time employees (or those working at least 40 hours per week) are entitled to 80 hours (two weeks) of paid sick leave, calculated based on their highest average two-week pay from January 1 to April 28, 2020.  Part-time employees can take paid sick leave in an amount no greater than their average two-week pay during that time.  Any employees employed by joint employers can only take the total aggregate of leave specified for employees of one employer.  Pay is capped at $511 per day (and $5,110 total).

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.  However, the leave can be offset by any paid leave provided by the employer on or after March 31, 2020 for COVID-19 related reasons (excluding regular or previously accrued hours).

Requesting and Documenting Leave
Employees must make a written request to take the paid sick leave, attesting to the fact they cannot work (or telework).  Requests made by text or email are sufficient.

Employers can require the same documentation allowed under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act to support the need for leave.  However, employees are allowed to begin taking leave before this documentation is obtained.

Employees cannot waive their right to receive this leave.  Employers cannot discharge, reduce in compensation, or otherwise discriminate against any employee for opposing any practice the law proscribes, requesting to use or actually using supplemental paid sick 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 can file a lawsuit for violation of this law, and may be entitled to reinstatement, back pay and paid sick leave unlawfully withheld, 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.