Unpaid Leave can Lead to a Lawsuit – Coronavirus Update

unpaid leaveUnpaid leave due to the COVID-19 pandemic is being forced on more Americans than at any other time in our country’s history. As of April 1 of this year, Public Law 116-127, otherwise known as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, gives workers the right to sue their employers in the event proper leave is not provided. Businesses employing between 50-500 workers must comply with the new law.

Consider These Unpaid Leave Circumstances

Many individuals across California and the United States are not showing up for work for reasons beyond their control:

  • There is a state or local quarantine;
  • They have received notification that they should self-quarantine due to a possible exposure or symptoms of the disease;
  • They have experienced disease symptoms and are seeking medical testing or treatment.

Under these circumstances, workers are entitled to the greater of these three wages:

  • Your regular pay;
  • The federal minimum wage;
  • The state minimum wage.

You can top out at as much as $511 per day during the course of your sick leave.

Furthermore, you may be entitled to two thirds of your normal pay — up to $200 daily — if you are unable to work for the following reasons:

  • You are caring for an individual who must be isolated or quarantined;
  • You are caring for a child who is unable to attend schools due to local closures;
  • You are in another situation similar to these that prevents you from going to work.

How it Works

Sick leave and expanded family and medical leave is calculated as follows:

Part time workers are entitled to the average earnings in a two-week time frame. The average going back six months may be used if an employee’s schedule varies significantly from week to week. These workers are entitled to paid sick leave for two weeks, and may extend the payment period for as many as 10 more weeks under the expanded family and medical leave provisions. In the event employees generally put in overtime hours, those too must be compensated under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act. Under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, however, only hours up to 80 in a two-week period are to be paid. [Read more…]

Sick Leave in California

sick leaveDo California seasonal employees accrue sick leave? Let’s say you are a seasonal employee, and you suddenly become ill. Should you show up to work anyway, and risk infecting others? That may seem like a better option than losing a day’s pay, or even your job, right?

The fact of the matter is, you do not have to make that choice if you work 30 hours a week or more. Paid sick leave (PSL) is available to temporary, seasonal, hourly, exempt, and nonexempt employees. California law requires employers to provide at least on hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. So, take the day off and stay home in bed where you belong! Your employer cannot ask you for a doctor’s note and cannot retaliate against you for using your PSL.  If your employer is not following the law, contact an experienced employment attorney.

What if I do Not Use My Sick Days?

On the other hand, let’s say you are super-healthy and never need to take time off.  What happens to your paid leave? Gone are the days of use-it-or-lose-it. California law allows you accumulate up to 48 hours of unused leave. Even if you can only earn 24 hours of leave each year, hours can be rolled over into the next year. The exception is if employers provide the hours in a lump sum at the beginning of the year. In that case, they are not required to allow a rollover.

Exemptions in the Law

There are, however, exceptions to the rule. Workers who are not entitled to sick leave under this law include:

  • Certain aviation employees, including cabin crew from particular airlines;
  • Home Support Service employees;
  • Construction employees;
  • Employees with a collective bargaining agreement who earn not less than 30% of the state minimum wage.

Compliance with the Law

Employers are required to do several things in order to remain in compliance with California law regarding sick leave mandates:

  • Provide a written copy of the sick leave policy;
  • Display a poster of the sick leave poster;
  • Provide a minimum of 24 hours of paid leave per eligible employee per year;
  • Calculate, track and report employee sick leave balances on pay stubs;
  • Keep sick leave records for at least three years.

Use PSL for Other Circumstances

Employees may use paid sick leave to care for sick family members, too. If your child, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent (or parent-in-law) grandparent, sibling, or grandchild is ill, you have paid time off to provide care. In fact, PSL may be used if you are a victim of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault.   [Read more…]

Paid Sick Leave, Breaks and Employer Responsibility

Paid Sick LeaveEmployees of all stripes have certain rights with regard to breaks and paid sick leave. When employers fail to provide the required breaks and/or leave, a knowledgeable employment attorney can help ensure you enjoy the benefits required by law.

Breaks During the Work Day

California labor law requires employers to provide an employee a meal period or rest period. A 2012 California Supreme Court ruling provided specificity to that law, ruling that employers are required to “…relieve employees of all duty, relinquish control over their activities, and permit them a reasonable opportunity to take an uninterrupted 30-minute break.”

The case involved Brinker Restaurant Corporation, Brinker International, Inc, and Brinker International Payroll Company, L.P. The claim was that Brinker either failed to provide breaks, or required employees to take “early lunching” followed by six to eight hours of shift work with no breaks. It resulted in Brinker paying out a $10 million settlement to employees who claimed to have suffered between 1999 and 2001.

While the court did require a work-free break be provided, it did not require employers to ensure that no work occurred during the break. In other words, if employees chose to work during a break it was not the employer’s responsibility to clamp down on that work.

Breaks must, however, allow for employees to leave the premises. Otherwise, the law does not consider it a legitimate break. The law provides for one hour’s pay at an employee’s regular wage for every missed off-duty break.

On the other hand, a voluntary agreement may be signed for on-duty meal breaks, provided the breaks are paid and the type of the work being done fits with criteria set out by the law. An employee may revoke this agreement at any time.

Mandatory Paid Sick Leave

In 2014, lawmakers in California determined that many California workers had inadequate paid sick leave. Hence, legislation was enacted to provide workers with paid time off to deal with the health care needs of themselves and their families. The rationale was that when workers had paid time off when ill, they would recover more quickly and would be less likely to spread illness to fellow workers and/or the public.

As of 2014, California employers are required to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, with no less than 24 hours of sick leave per year. Sick days may be used after 90 days of employment. The responsibility for enforcement of this law lies with the California labor Commissioner, who must investigate potential violations and impose fines on behalf of employers whose rights have been violated. [Read more…]


The information on this website should not be considered to be legal advice, nor construed to be the formation of any manner of attorney client relationship. Prior to taking any form of legal action, please consult with an attorney experienced in the appropriate area of law germane to your situation. Case results and testimonials presented on www.californialaborandemploymentlaw.net or any of its related websites are germane to the facts present for each individual case and is not a promise of similar outcomes for any other cases. This website is not intended to solicit clients for matters outside of the State of California.