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California Sick Leave Law – All You Need To Know

Emanuel Shirazi

California’s paid sick leave laws provide qualified employees with a minimum of 24 hours, or 3 work days, of paid sick leave off per year. These statewide requirements apply to all employers, no matter their size, and allow employees to care for their own health and the health of their loved ones. An employer who refuses to allow you to take paid sick leave, or retaliates against you for using your rightful time off, is violating your employee rights.

Understanding Paid Sick Leave in California

Paid sick leave (PSL) is protected by a California employment law that requires employers to allow 24 hours, or 3 days off, for employees to deal with a personal health condition or the health issues of a family member. This leave also covers:

  • Recovery from illness or injury
  • Preventative treatment or diagnosis
  • Treatment, care, or diagnosis for a family member

The definition of “family member” who an employee can take PSL to care for is broad and includes:

  • Child, including stepchild, foster child, and adopted child
  • Spouse or domestic partner
  • Grandchild
  • Parent or parent-in-law
  • Grandparent
  • Siblings
  • Designated person

PSL can also be used by victims of stalking, domestic violence, or sexual assault. This paid time off can be used for:

  • Medical care for any injuries from the event
  • Psychological counseling and treatment
  • Relief efforts for you and/or your child, such as protective orders
  • Protection or services from a shelter or crisis center

PSL can be offered in segments of hours or days, and employer policies may allow for an accrual plan or may provide all the earned hours at once.

Employees Who Are Eligible for Paid Sick Leave in California

Part-time, full-time, and temporary workers have the potential to be eligible for PSL. The qualifications for receiving PSL include:

  1. Someone works for the same employer for a minimum of 30 days in a year.
  2. A new hire completes 90 days of employment prior to taking PSL.

A full-time employee who meets these requirements must be allowed 24 hours, or 3 days, of PSL in a 12-month period, whichever is greater. Employers can also offer more PSL, and certain cities in California have different PSL requirements. An employer may offer PSL:

  • All at One Time: This could mean that, once an employee meets the qualifications, they have access to their maximum leave for the year.
  • Through an Accrual Plan: An accrual plan means that an employee should earn a minimum of 1 hour of PSL for every 30 hours worked.
Your PSL should be compensated at your regular pay rate.

Some employees are not eligible for PSL. This includes retired government employees receiving annuities and air carrier employees who work as flight deck or cabin crew employees. Employees under a collective bargaining agreement may also not be eligible for PSL if they expressly waive their right to PSL in the agreement.

Employer Limitations on Paid Sick Leave

If an employee doesn’t use their PSL, it can carry over to the next year. However, employers can place caps on PSL obtained per year and PSL that can carry over. This includes:

  • Limiting PSL gained in a year to 24 hours or 3 work days, whichever is greater
  • Limiting rollover PSL to a maximum of 48 hours or 6 work days, whichever is greater

An employer can provide a more generous PSL or match the California requirements.

Can an Employer Deny Paid Sick Leave?

No, an employee cannot deny PSL that has been rightfully accrued. As long as an employee meets the qualifications, and has been provided with up-front PSL hours or accrued them over time, they have the right to take that leave. If an employer discourages, prevents, or threatens a negative employment action against an employee who wishes to take or has taken PSL, the employee can file a claim against them.


Q: How Many Sick Days Do You Get in California?

A: Under California’s paid sick leave (PSL) laws, an employee who meets certain criteria must be allowed 3 work days, or 24 hours, of PSL per year, whichever amount is greater. Additionally, California employees have job-protected and unpaid sick leave under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Both PSL and unpaid leave can be used to:

  • Care for a personal injury or illness.
  • Care for a family member who is suffering from an injury or illness.
  • Seek preventative care or diagnosis for yourself or a family member.

Q: What Are the Requirements for California’s Sick Leave Policy?

A: To qualify for California paid sick leave (PSL), an employee must have worked a minimum of 30 days in a year with the same employer and completed 90 days of work prior to taking PSL. This is true for part-time, full-time, and temporary employees. Under a PSL accrual policy, an employee must earn a minimum of 1-hour PSL for every 30 hours worked. A full-time employee must have a minimum of 3 days, or 24 hours, of PSL in a year.

Q: Can an Employer Require a Doctor’s Note in California?

A: California law does not state it definitively, but it doesn’t prohibit employers from requesting or requiring a doctor’s note. Therefore, employers commonly request a doctor’s note as part of their policy. However, employers are not allowed to request medical information. Additionally, the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) has stated that requiring a doctor’s note, or preventing an employee from taking protected leave because of a lack of a doctor’s note, may be a violation of employee rights. To understand what protections you have, it’s useful to talk with an attorney who has experience with protected medical leave.

Q: What Is the CFRA Policy?

A: There have been two changes to the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). These are:

  1. The definition of “parent” has been extended to include “parent-in-law.” Because the CFRA provides job-protected and unpaid leave to care for certain family members, including parents, this allows employees to take that leave to care for parents-in-law.
  2. An employee can take protected leave to care for a “designated person.” This may be someone related by blood or someone with whom the employee has a familial relationship.

Contact Shirazi Law Firm, P.C.

At Shirazi Law Firm, P.C., we strive to protect employee rights. If you believe that your employee rights to paid sick leave have been violated, contact our team to discuss your situation.

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