Large Employers Required to Pay Coronavirus-Related Sick Leave Under New L.A. Ordinance

Federal and state governments are not the only ones protecting employees suffering as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Los Angeles has followed suit, with its City Council passing a supplemental paid sick leave ordinance of its own. The law now awaits signature by Mayor Eric Garcetti. In the meantime, Michelman & Robinson answers the questions L.A.-based employers are sure to have about the new law.

Q. Does the ordinance passed in L.A. apply to any sized company?

A. No, only large employers will be bound by the law, which defines large employers as those having more than 500 employees nationwide (which employees are not covered by the paid leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, described here). Essentially, the ordinance expands what is provided under the Families First Act to large employers in L.A. that are exempt from the federal law.

Q. How much paid sick leave will employers have to pay employees taking leave under the ordinance?

A. Through December 31, 2020, when the ordinance is set to expire, qualifying employees (see below) will be on the hook to pay full-time employees up to 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave related to the coronavirus pandemic. Part-time employees (those who work less than 40 hours per week) will be entitled to receive an amount no greater than their average two-week pay over the period of February 3, 2020 through March 4, 2020. In either case, the supplemental paid sick leave is in addition to the amount of paid leave the employer allows for pursuant to its existing policies.

Q. What types of absences from work does the ordinance contemplate?

A. The ordinance states that an employer will provide supplemental paid sick leave upon the oral or written request of an employee if any of the following apply:

  • The employee takes time off 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 child care 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

Q. As a large employer, will I have to pay coronavirus-related sick leave for all of my employees that seek it?

A. No, only individuals that work in L.A. and have been employed by you since at least February 3, 2020, and have worked through March 4, 2020 (at a minimum) qualify for the supplemental leave benefits. Note that the ordinance applies to full time, part time, and temporary employees.

Q. How will the supplemental paid sick leave be calculated?

A. For a full-time employee, the paid sick leave pay is based upon his or her average two-week pay from February 3, 2020 to March 4, 2020. As mentioned above, a part-time employee’s paid leave is to be no more than his or her average two-week pay from this same time period. Of note, there is a cap on supplemental sick leave pay under the ordinance: $511 per day and $5,110 in aggregate. Also, employees of joint employers are only entitled to the total aggregate amount of leave specified for employees of one employer.

Q. Are there any categories of employers that will be exempt from the law?

A. Yes, the paid sick leave ordinance does not apply to employers of health care providers (as defined by California Government Code section 12945.2) or first responders (as defined in the ordinance as a peace officer, firefighter, paramedic, emergency medical technician, public safety dispatcher or safety telecommunicator, emergency response communication employee, and rescue personnel).

Q. What if I’ve already paid sick leave to an employee for reasons related to COVID-19?

A. If you are a qualifying large employer, your obligation to provide 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave under the ordinance will be reduced for every hour you allowed an employee to take paid leave. This, however, does not include hours accrued before March 4, 2020.

Q. Is there anything else I should know about L.A.’s coronavirus-related supplemental paid sick leave ordinance?

A. Yes, rights under the law cannot be waived; employees are not required to provide a doctor’s note or other documentation to avail themselves of supplemental paid sick leave; and employers cannot take any retaliatory action against an employee that requests to use or actually uses the benefits under the ordinance.

This blog post is not offered, and should not be relied on, as legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice in specific situations.