The New Sick Leave Ordinance in Los Angeles is Enough to Make an Employer Ill
Posted June 17, 2016

On June 2, 2016, with a swish of the pen, Mayor Garcetti made Los Angeles employers collectively sick by approving Ordinance No. 184320 which, among other changes, doubles the state-mandated sick leave already available to workers who work inside the city of Los Angeles (whether through public or private employers). Here are some of the highlights (lowlights?) of the new ordinance:

To whom do the provisions of the new ordinance apply?

With very limited exceptions, the ordinance applies to “Every Employee who, on or after July 1,2016, works in the City for the same Employer for 30 days or more within a year from the commencement of employment is entitled to paid sick leave.”

The ordinance defines “City” to mean the “City of Los Angeles” and "Employee" means any individual who::

  1. In a particular week performs at least two hours of work within the geographic boundaries of the City for an Employer; and
  2. Qualifies as an Employee entitled to payment of a minimum wage from any Employer under the California minimum wage law, as provided under Section 1197 of the California Labor Code and wage orders published by the California Industrial Welfare Commission.”

The definition of employee can be problematic for employers whose employees travel in and out of the City. For example, if a weed abatement crew from Orange County or Ventura travels into the city of Los Angeles for a day project, the affected employees must be accruing sick leave at levels required by the ordinance during the hours worked within the City limits. That necessarily requires affected employees to track their City hours separately from their non-City hours, and requires employers to calculate separate sick time accruals.

When does the ordinance take effect?

The effective date of the ordinance depends on the size of your company. If you have 26 or more employees, the ordinance takes effect on July 1, 2016; LESS THAN TWO WEEKS AWAY! If your company has 25 or fewer employees, you have a short one-year reprieve until the new ordinance becomes effective on July 1, 2017.

What are the key things I need to know?

Most of the ordinance tracks the California state Sick Leave laws. There are several key differences:

  • Effective date of accrual: “Paid sick leave shall accrue on the first day of employment or July 1, 2016 (or July 1, 2017), whichever is later.”
  • How is it provided? “Employers must provide sick leave either:
    • [Flat Rate Method] [B]y providing the entire 48 hours to an Employee at the beginning of each year of employment, calendar year, or 12-month period; or
    • [Accrual Method] [B]y providing the Employee one hour of sick leave per every 30 hours worked.”
  • [Larger Usage Cap vs. Accrual Cap Changes] “Employees will be entitled to take up to 48 hours of sick leave in each year of employment, calendar year, or 12-month period. Accrued unused paid sick leave shall carry over to the following year of employment and may be capped at 72 hours. (Notably, this ordinance is written in terms of hours; it does not mention days, unlike the state legislation).
  • [Broader “Familial” Categories] In addition to the familial categories identified in the Labor Code, the new ordinance also allows sick leave to be used for “. . . any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.
  • [Rate of Pay] If applicable, as of July 1, 2016, you may need to pay sick leave at the new Los Angeles minimum wage ($10.50). For more information on the Los Angeles Minimum Wage, see the link to the actual ordinance directly below.

For those employers who will be impacted by this ordinance, you can find the ordinance at: http://clkrep.lacity.org/onlinedocs/2014/14-1371_ORD_184320_6-2-16.pdf.

A FINAL NOTE OF CAUTION: Several other California cities and counties are considering (or have already passed) similar local sick leave (and minimum wage) ordinances. These include, among others, San Francisco, Emeryville, Oakland, Santa Monica, and San Diego. Although these laws share many similarities, each is distinct and employers are strongly advised to check the local rules for each city or county in which they are located as well as any city or county in which they do business, to ensure that they are in compliance with all applicable local, state, and federal laws.

In sum, if this ordinance applies to your company, the first step is to immediately review, and very likely update your sick leave or PTO policy to address the upcoming changes.

As always, if you have questions about the new sick leave (or minimum wage) ordinance, or any other employment-related questions, contact the employment attorneys at LightGabler for assistance.