We’ve previously provided general guidance on the challenges facing students, parents and employers this fall. This post focuses on what employers doing business in California need to consider in response to their employees requests for time off work due to school or childcare facility closures.
What are your obligations if an employee is seeking leave to care for children who would be in school or daycare if not for COVID-19 related closures:
- Does FFCRA apply?
- Does a state or local Emergency COVID-19 leave law apply in your jurisdiction?
- Does a paid sick leave law apply in your jurisdiction?
- Does a company benefit or policy apply?
In addition to adhering to existing company policies related to paid time off and leaves of absence, California employers should familiarize themselves with state and local laws intended to force private employers exempted from providing paid sick leave under the FFCRA to pay their employees for sick leave related to COVID-19, including time off for childcare. The laws vary in terms of verification requirements, exemptions, and duration, but generally they require employers to provide two-weeks of paid leave for COVID-19 related reasons through December 31, 2020. Here is a sampling of recent paid sick leave laws in various jurisdictions:
- California’s Supplemental Paid Leave for Food Sector Workers: An executive order by Governor Newsom provides supplemental paid sick leave to food sector employees not covered by the federal FFCRA.
- Emeryville: The city expanded its supplemental paid sick leave to allow eligible employees to use accrued paid sick leave for additional reasons related to COVID-19.
- Long Beach: The Long Beach City Council adopted an ordinance to expand its paid sick leave law to employees not protected by the FFCRA because they work for employers with 500 or more employees, thereby requiring employers to grant paid sick leave to employees requesting time off due to COVID-19, including time off to care for a minor child because the child’s school, daycare or childcare provider is closed or unavailable because of COVID-19 and the employee is unable to secure a reasonable alternative caregiver.
- Los Angeles (City): An executive order by Los Angeles’ mayor requires large employers to provide paid sick leave for COVID-19 related reasons, including closed schools and child care providers.
- Los Angeles (County): Aninterim ordinance requires employers with 500 or more employees nationally to provide employees working within Los Angeles County up to 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave, including time off to provide care for a family member whose school or child care provider ceases operations in response to a public health or other public official’s recommendation.
- Oakland: An emergency ordinance requires all private employers, unless exempted, to provide up to 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave for COVID-19 related reasons, including to employees who are caring for a son or daughter whose school or place of care has been closed or is unavailable due to COVID-19 precautions.
- Sacramento: Sacramento’s City Council enacted an emergency ordinance requiring covered employers to provide supplemental paid sick leave to employees who are unable to work or telework for COVID-19 related reasons, including to care for a minor child because a school or daycare is closed due to COVID-19.
- San Francisco: Public Health Emergency Leave: The city requires large employers (500 or more employees worldwide) to provide employees up to 80 hours of public health emergency leave, including leave to care for family members whose school or care provider is closed due to the Public Health Emergency. Also, the San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement issued guidance that expanded the reasons employees could use San Francisco’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance during the pandemic.
- San Jose: Emergency Paid Sick Leave: An interim ordinance requires employers exempt under the FFCRA to provide up to 80 hours of paid leave for employees, including time off to care for a minor child during school/care closures due to COVID-19.
- San Mateo County: An emergency ordinance requires employers exempt under the FFCRA to provide up to 80 hours of paid leave for employees, including time off because the employee needs to provide care for an individual whose school or childcare provider is closed or unavailable in response to public health recommendations.
- Santa Rosa: The city’s emergency ordinance requires employers exempt under the FFCRA to provide up to 80 hours of paid leave for employees, including employees who are caring for children whose school or place of care is closed due to COVID-19.
- Sonoma County: The county enacted an emergency ordinance that requires employers exempt under the FFCRA to provide up to 80 hours of paid leave for employees, including for those employees who are unable to work or telework because they need to provide care for an individual whose school or childcare is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19.
Businesses should also review “regular” sick leave ordinances if employees are located in Berkeley, Emeryville, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco, or Santa Monica in order to determine if there is additional (continuing) paid sick leave coverage that extends beyond the coverage period outlined in the COVID-19 related supplemental leave laws due to sunset at the end of the year.
A safe rule for California employers is to observe the most protective statute or regulation that could apply and follow it.