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Facing Omicron Surge and Workers’ Petitions, Governor Extends COVID-19 Sick Leave

Attorney: Mary Watson Fisher, Laurie E. Sherwood, Karen J. Porter | Published 2.10.22

In response to the Omicron variant surge and petitions of concerned front-line workers, California Governor Gavin Newsom just signed Senate Bill 114 (Labor Code section 248.6) into law, which reinstates the COVID-19 supplemental sick leave for covered employees that expired in September 2021.

The newly enacted law requires California employers with 26 or more employees to provide covered employees up to 80 hours of supplemental, paid sick leave for qualifying COVID-19-related reasons. These reasons include attending a COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine booster appointment for themselves or a family member, experiencing symptoms, or caring for a family member with symptoms related to a COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine booster.

The new law entitles a covered employee to take up to 40 hours of COVID-19 supplemental leave if the employee either works full time or was scheduled to work, on average, at least 40 hours per week for the employer in the two weeks preceding the date the employee took leave. The Bill establishes a different calculation for firefighters.

The covered employee is entitled to an additional 40 hours of supplemental leave if they, or a family member in their care, tests positive for COVID-19. The employer is under no obligation to provide the additional 40 hours of supplemental paid sick leave if the covered employee refuses to provide documentation of a positive test result.

The paid sick leave hours to which employees are entitled through this law are supplemental, and in addition to any paid sick leave already available to covered employees under the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014. It is also in addition to any prior COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave to which the employee was entitled.

The law is applied retroactively, taking effect January 1, 2022, and continues until September 30, 2022.

For exempt employees, COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave wages are calculated in the same manner as the employer calculates wages for other paid leaves. For non-exempt employees, a formula is stated in Senate Bill 114 that indicates how their paid sick leave wages are calculated.

Employers are not required to pay more than $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate to a covered employee for COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave taken by the covered employee, unless the legislature later changes this amount.

For additional information on this legislation or how it may impact your business, please contact Mary Watson Fisher, Laurie Sherwood, or Karen Porter.