While the federal statute providing emergency paid leave during the COVID-19 pandemic remains up in the air, some clarity exists with respect to city and county analogues in the state of California.
The cities of Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose and Santa Rosa—as well as the counties of Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Mateo and Sonoma—have all extended their ordinances concerning COVID-19-related leave previously passed in 2020.
Most of the jurisdictions simply extended the effective date of their ordinances and provided that employers are not required to provide a new bank of leave if such leave was previously utilized under the original ordinances.
Others took the opportunity to expand coverage. For example, Los Angeles County passed an ordinance on January 26, which took immediate and retroactive effect to January 1, that broadened the definition of covered employers. Previously, businesses were only required to provide paid sick leave if they had 500 or more employees nationwide. The updated law does not include a threshold number of employees and applies to all private employers in Los Angeles County.
Covered reasons for leave include federal, state or local quarantine or isolation orders due to COVID-19 for the employee or to care for a family member subject to such order.
The Los Angeles County ordinance—similar to the ordinance passed in the city of L.A.—has no defined end date. It is scheduled to remain in effect until two calendar weeks after the COVID-19 local emergency order declared by the county expires.
Importantly, the ordinance does not mandate that employers provide new paid leave. Employees who used all of their available leave under the federal Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) or the Los Angeles County leave in 2020 are ineligible for additional leave in 2021. In addition, the maximum leave available under the county ordinance may be offset by use of leave under the FFCRA.
Employers should also take a careful look at the effective dates for the various local laws.
The city of Oakland, which enacted its updated ordinance on January 19, provided for retroactive relief to January 1 like Los Angeles County did. But in Sacramento County, the extension of emergency paid sick leave took effect on January 14 and didn’t include a retroactivity provision, creating a two-week coverage gap dating back to December 31, 2020.
Sacramento County also provided employers with a definite end date of March 31 for application of the ordinance. San Mateo County extended its emergency paid sick leave law until June 30, while in Long Beach, the city manager is required to report on the emergency paid sick leave law’s effectiveness, and whether it remains necessary, every 90 days; the city council then decides when the law will end.
Why it matters: The patchwork of city and county ordinances providing emergency paid sick leave in California—with different effective dates, termination dates and scope of coverage—requires careful analysis. Our attorneys are standing by to help answer any specific questions regarding the area in which you do business and the impact on your employees.