More Localities Adopting COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave

What are the latest cities/counties that have enacted sick leave ordinances for COVID-19 purposes?

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and since the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) took effect on April 1, 2020, a number of California cities and counties have passed their own COVID-19-related emergency paid sick leave ordinances—generally aimed at filling the gaps of coverage for individuals employed by larger employers (with 500 or more employees nationally), who are not covered under the FFCRA.

The City of Los Angeles started the trend in early April, followed by San Jose, San Francisco, and Unincorporated Los Angeles County in the same month.

In May, we saw similar ordinances take effect in Oakland and Long Beach. The latest localities to join the list are the City of Sacramento, Santa Rosa and Unincorporated San Mateo County.

City of Sacramento

On June 30, the Sacramento City Council enacted its Worker Protection, Health, and Safety Act, an emergency ordinance that requires employers not already covered by the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) under the FFCRA—those with 500 or more employees—to provide up to 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave for the same reasons covered under the FFCRA.

Additionally, an employee may use supplemental paid sick leave if they’re unable to work or telework because that employee chooses to take time off because they’re over 65 years old or considered vulnerable due to a compromised immune system.

Sacramento’s ordinance also has a unique requirement that employers implement and follow physical distancing, mitigation, and cleaning protocols and practices, including providing face coverings for employees to wear while at the employment site and mandating use of the face coverings when maintaining a six feet minimum physical distance isn’t possible.

The ordinance also includes a right for employees to refuse to work if an employer is in violation of the ordinance. The ordinance took effect on July 15.

Santa Rosa

On July 7, Santa Rosa’s City Council enacted an urgency ordinance imposing temporary sick leave requirements (up to 80 hours for qualifying reasons), which took effect immediately upon passage.

The ordinance covers all private employers, including those already covered by the federal EPSLA, to the extent that additional benefits are provided.

For example, this ordinance eliminates the two-tier payment schedule, which depends on whether the employee is using the sick leave for their own purposes or to care for another.

Employers must pay an employee for paid sick leave at their regular rate, up to $511 a day and up to $5,110 total.

Unincorporated San Mateo County

Also on July 7, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors adopted an emergency ordinance to establish supplemental paid sick leave for COVID-19-related reasons, which took effect the following day, on July 8.

This ordinance covers both employers with 500 or more employees and employees who have been required to perform work in the county’s unincorporated areas since January 1, 2020.

Employers must provide up to 80 hours of supplemental sick leave if an employee is unable to work or telework for the same qualifying reasons under the federal EPSLA.

Currently, all three ordinances will remain in effect through December 31, 2020.

For more details of each ordinance, see the HRWatchdog blog at hrwatchdog.calchamber.com.


Column based on questions asked by callers on the Labor Law Helpline, 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.

Staff Contact: Bianca N. Saad

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Bianca Saad
Bianca N. Saad, employment law counsel/subject matter expert, has been a member of the CalChamber legal affairs team since April 2018. She oversees CalChamber coverage of the ever-expanding area of labor-related local ordinances and serves as a co-presenter for CalChamber compliance seminars and webinars. Saad brings to the CalChamber legal affairs team the perspective of an employee representative, coming from nearly eight years in private practice as an employment law and litigation attorney. She graduated with honors from the University of Miami with a B.B.A. in business management. She earned her J.D. from California Western School of Law.