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Governor Brown Signs Paid Sick Leave Bill

This month California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1522 that, come July 1, 2015, will require most California employers to provide a minimum of three paid sick days (or 24 hours) to their workers. “Whether you’re a dishwasher in San Diego or a store clerk in Oakland, this bill frees you of having to choose between your family’s health and your job,” the governor said at the signing ceremony in Los Angeles.   The bill is called the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014.

The benefit applies to both full-time and part-time workers at businesses large and small. Employees will be eligible to accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, with the employer capping the use of that paid time off to 24 hours per year.

While the bill has been heralded as an “historic action” to give millions of workers access to paid sick days, there certainly seems room for improvement. First, by capping the amount of sick leave hours to just 24 hours per year, California took a significant step back from the nationwide standard, which provides up to 40 hours a year.  Second, the bill is missing a very important enforcement mechanism, namely, a private right of action.  Instead, enforcement of the bill is limited to the jurisdiction of the over-burdened State Labor Commissioner’s Office.  Third, the bill excludes the approximate 360,000 In-Home Supportive Services workers – who care for low-income elderly and disabled Californians.

While millions of workers now have access to paid sick days, it is unfortunate that our lawmakers compromised national efforts by locking in a reduced number of sick leave hours, carved out historically disadvantaged workers, and made enforcement more difficult for the workers who need it most.