How can employees use California’s mandatory paid sick leave (PSL)?
Under the Healthy Families, Healthy Workplace Act, California employers are required to allow employees who have earned PSL to use that time upon reasonable request by the employee.
Employees can take PSL for themselves or a family member for the diagnosis, care or treatment of an existing health condition or preventive care, or for specified purposes for an employee who is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
Employees cannot be discouraged from using PSL, nor can they be discriminated or retaliated against for using that time off.
The purpose of PSL is to allow employees to take time off of work due to illness or injury without loss of compensation. The Labor Commissioner has emphasized that employees may decide how much paid sick leave they want to use (for example, whether an entire day, or only part of a day). For a partial day absence, an employer can require that an employee take a minimum of two hours, but can’t require the employee to take more time off.
Example: An employer has a policy requiring an employee to take a minimum of two hours off. Flora takes one hour for a medical appointment. Her supervisor reminds her of the two-hour increment, so she does not begin work again for two hours.
Example: Fred, who works seven-hour shifts, is sick for a full day. He gets paid for seven hours and seven hours of PSL is deducted from his PSL.
There also may be employees who wish to use their PSL for appointments on days they do not usually work. The purpose of the Act is to provide employees with compensation if they have to miss work due to their own illness or that of a family member, or any other reason outlined in the Act.
Nonetheless, there is nothing in the law that prohibits an employer from denying an employee’s request to use paid sick leave to compensate for an appointment on a day the employee is not scheduled to work. This is a grey area that the law does not address. Employers should use caution and discuss with counsel the consequences of implementing such a policy.
Note: Updated on June 30, 2016 to clarify the minimum increment of PSL an employer may require and the law’s lack of guidance on using PSL for appointments.
The Labor Law Helpline is a service to California Chamber of Commerce preferred and executive members. For expert explanations of labor laws and Cal/OSHA regulations, not legal counsel for specific situations, call (800) 348-2262 or submit your question at www.hrcalifornia.com.
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