New Sick Leave Law, Minimum Wage Increases and Living Wage Ordinances

by Michelle R. Ferber and Ben McDonald

New Sick Leave Law

On July 1, 2015, California will be enforcing new regulations regarding the sick leave employers must provide to their employees.  The Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 requires that a California employee who, on or after July 1, 2015, works for 30 or more days per year from the beginning of their employment is entitled to paid sick leave.

This paid sick leave accrues at the rate of one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.  Accrual of paid sick leave time begins either on July 1, 2015, or the first day of employment if after July 1, 2015, and is paid at the employee’s regular wage rate.  The employee may begin to use their accrued sick days beginning on the 90th day of their employment.

An employee who has accrued paid sick leave may request either orally or in writing to take time off of work while being paid at their standard wage in order to care for themself or a family member for medical care, or for specified purposes for an employee who is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

Sick leave that an employee has accrued will carry over to the following year, but may be capped at 48 hours.  If an employer already has a paid-time-off policy in place that provides at least 24 hours of paid leave or paid time off, no accrual or carry over policy is required if the full amount of leave as mandated by the act is received at the beginning of each year.  It should also be noted that an employer may limit the use of paid sick days to 24 hours or three days in each year of employment.

While the new rules can be confusing, Ferber Law is here to help.  Please do not hesitate to contact our office if we may assist you with the implementation of this new paid sick leave policy, or any employment matters in general.

Minimum Wage Increases and Living Wage Ordinances

On January 1, 2016, California’s minimum wage will increase from its current rate of $9 per hour to $10 per hour.  While the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25 per hour as mandated by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is indeed lower, California employers are bound to pay their employees the higher of the state or federal minimum wage.  California has consistently paved the way toward higher wages and has steadily surpassed the federal minimum wage since 1997.

Several California cities have gone even further, passing their own higher minimum wage laws.  Often called Living Wage Ordinances or Minimum Wage Ordinances, Bay Area cities such as San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley, have enacted higher minimum wage laws to ensure that workers are able to survive and support their families despite the high cost of living in those areas.  While San Francisco’s minimum wage of $12.25 per hour, which is to be increased to $13.00 per hour on January 1, 2016, applies to all employees who perform work within the city limits, the minimum/living wage ordinances of Oakland (currently $12.25 per hour) and Berkeley (currently $11.00 per hour) apply to employees and individuals who have certain financial or contractual relationships with the municipalities. 

Employees are encouraged to research minimum wage laws passed by their local municipalities because while no city can pay less than the $9 per hour minimum wage (to be increased to $10 per hour on January 1, 2016), as noted above, many cities choose to enact laws lifting the minimum wage above the California state requirements in order to provide its citizens with a means of staying afloat amidst ever-increasing costs of living.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.