Is the California Paid Sick Leave Law a Step Backward?

Beginning January 1, 2015, California’s new paid sick leave law takes effect. This new law mandates that California employers must allow its employees to accrue and use paid sick time. However, while this new paid sick leave law aims to benefit employees and is seemingly a leap forward for employees’ workplace rights, some believe this new law is actually doing nothing to improve employees’ current situations or is even actually a step backward.

Firstly, in order to qualify for the paid sick leave, the employee must first work for at least 30 days within a year and must also satisfy a 90-day employment period before the using any paid sick leave. This means that if the employee works more than 30 days but less than 90 days, the employee is not entitled to take the paid sick leave. Additionally, though taking effect January 1, 2015, the law does not allow for employees to actually accrue time off until July 1, 2015. Similarly, employees must also wait until July 1, 2015 before he or she can actually use any of the accrued leave to take time off of work. Although the idea of legally requiring employers to provide its employees with paid sick leave is appealing, the reality is that the new law still embeds a few hoops for employees to jump through.

Secondly, while California paid sick leave mandates accrual of sick time off, employers can cap the limit of paid sick leave an employee can take in a year to 24 hours. This means that while employees will earn at least one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked (which amounts to a little more than 8 days a year for full-time employees), the ability to use all the time accrued can still be curbed. While this new paid sick leave provides employees with paid time off, it still grants the employers a lot of power over its employees. Therefore, what seems like a leap forward for employees in the area of workplace rights may actually just be a baby step, if that.

Lastly, a cap of 24 hours of paid sick leave for California employees is a low bar compared to other state and local governments. By setting a 24-hour-per-year limit on the amount of sick leave hours an employee can accrue, California falls short of the nationwide standard, which provides up to 40 hours a year. By cutting the number of hours nearly in half, California law shortchanges its employees

Considering all this, it is difficult to disagree that the California law governing the paid sick leave going into effect this coming year does little for employees. The new legislation is hardly a leap forward with regard to employees’ workplace rights.