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MARCH 5, 2020

L.A. Mayor Amends COVID-19-Related Paid Sick Leave Ordinance

APRIL 8, 2020

As Michelman & Robinson previously reported, the Los Angeles City Council passed an emergency ordinance on March 27 requiring large employers (those with 500 or more employees) to provide COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave to their employees, effectively expanding the paid sick leave requirements of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Last night, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti issued an emergency order amending the ordinance. In doing so, he praised the City Council for acting swiftly on behalf of the city’s employees, but he also noted that changes to the law were necessary to protect businesses, many of which already provide generous paid sick leave programs.

Here, M&R recaps the scope of the ordinance as well as the amendments made by way of Mayor Garcetti’s emergency order.

Q. What does the ordinance provide?

A. As was the case in its original form, the ordinance provides supplemental paid sick leave to any eligible employee employed from Feb 3 to March 4, 2020, who is now unable to work or telework for any of the reasons set forth below.

Full-time employees (those who work 40 hours/week) shall receive 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave pursuant to the ordinance, and employees who work less than 40 hours/week (and are not classified as full-time) are eligible for supplemental paid sick leave in an amount no greater than the employee’s average two-week pay for the period of February 3 to March 4, 2020.

Q. At what rate is the paid sick leave calculated for full-time employees?

A. Paid sick leave made available by way of the ordinance is to be paid at the rate based on the full-time employee’s average two-week pay between February 3 and March 4, 2020. This means that if an employee’s pay was reduced after March 4, his or her leave is to be paid at the prior (higher) rate. That being said, supplemental paid sick leave paid to any employee shall not exceed $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate.

Q. To whom does the ordinance apply?

A. In terms of employees, the ordinance applies to those who perform work within the City of L.A. For their part, employers who employ, either directly or through a staffing agency—(1) 500 or more employees within the City of L.A. or (2) 2,000 or more employees nationwide—are subject to the ordinance.

Note that in a joint employer situation, an employee is only entitled to the total aggregate amount of leave for one employer.

Q. What reasons for leave trigger an employer’s obligations under the ordinance?

A. By virtue of the ordinance, an employer must provide supplemental paid sick leave to an employee, upon oral or written request, if any of the following apply:

  • The employee needs to take time off due to COVID-19 infection or because a public health official or healthcare provider requires or recommends the employee isolate or self-quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19
  • The employee takes time off work because he or she 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 he or she 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
  • The employee takes time off work because he or she needs to provide care for a family member whose senior care provider or whose school or child care provider caring for a child under the age of 18 temporarily ceases operations in response to a public health or other public officials recommendation (this reason for leave is only applicable to an employee who is unable to secure a reasonable alternative caregiver)

Employers must be aware that they may not require a doctor’s note or other documentation from any employee seeking to use supplemental paid sick leave.

Q. Can employers avail themselves to any offset?

A. Yes, an employer’s obligation to provide 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave under the ordinance shall be reduced for every hour it has allowed an employee to take paid leave (in addition to any previously accrued leave) in an amount equal to or greater than the requirements in the ordinance (and executive order) after March 4, 2020.

Q. Who is exempt from the ordinance?

A. The following employers are not subject to the mandates of the ordinance (Mayor Garcetti’s executive order significantly expanded upon the ordinance’s original exemptions, as indicated in bold):

  • Employers of emergency and health services personnel, 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, as well as contract workers and individuals working at a health facility licensed under California Health & Safety Code Section 1250
  • Employers of employees who perform global parcel delivery services (Critical Parcel Delivery)
  • Employers who already provide “Generous Leave.” More specifically, if an employer has a paid leave or paid time off policy that provides a minimum of 160 hours of paid leave annually, the employer is exempt from any obligation to provide supplemental leave (as otherwise mandated by the ordinance) for the employees that receive the more generous paid leave
  • New Businesses that started in the City of L.A. or businesses that relocated from outside the City of L.A. on or after September 4, 2019 through March 4, 2020 (to qualify, an employer could not have been in business in the City of L.A. in the 2018 tax year, and this exemption does not include construction businesses or film producers)
  • Governmental agencies employing individuals working within the course and scope of their public service employment
  • Closed Businesses and Organizations—that is, any business or organization that (1) was closed or not operating for a period of 14 or more days due to a city official’s emergency order because of the COVID-19 pandemic, or (2) provided at least 14 days of paid sick leave during such time.

We are working diligently to keep our clients up to date on coronavirus-related developments. Nevertheless, these developments are changing daily and, in some cases even hourly, so it is important that you make sure you are dealing with the most current information. That being said, this alert is not offered, and should not be relied on, as legal advice. You should consult an attorney for guidance and counsel regarding any specific concern or situation.