When you or your family member is sick, it is important to know that you can take time away from work without fearing for your job. Being out of work because of an illness can be financially devastating. 

Paid sick time can help you care for yourself and pay your bills. Therefore, how much paid sick leave you are entitled to receive is important. 

California employment laws protect employees from being wrongfully terminated for taking sick time. It also requires employers to provide sick time for employees. If you believe your employer broke California employment laws, you may want to discuss your situation with a San Diego employment law attorney.

How Many Hours of Sick Time Are Required in California?

The Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act of 2014 (HWHFA) provides paid sick time requirements for California employers. The number of paid sick leave hours you earn depends on your work schedule. HWHFA covers most employees.

Employees covered by HWHFA include:

  • Employees working full-time, part-time, temporary, or seasonal in California;
  • For at least 30 days during a 12-month period; AND,
  • For the same employer.

However, the HWHFA does not cover employees who provide in-home support services or employees with a qualifying collective bargaining agreement. In addition, it does not cover employees working for the government as retiree annuitants or certain air carrier employees.

Employees who qualify for paid sick time under HWHFA receive one hour of paid sick time after 30 hours of work. The law allows employees to carry over unused sick leave to the following year.

However, employers may limit the use of paid sick leave to three days (24 hours) per year. Also, the law allows employers to cap carryover sick leave hours to six days (48 hours).

Can My Employer Reduce My Pay for Sick Time?

No, your employer must pay your paid sick leave at your regular pay rate. The regular rate of pay is based on the workweek that you take paid sick leave or by averaging your pay for the 90 days before taking sick leave.

Does San Diego Have Sick Hour Laws?

If you work within the San Diego city limit, you may qualify for sick time under the San Diego Earned Sick Leave and Minimum Wage Ordinance. Employees who work at least two hours within the city limits during a year qualify under this law. 

The paid sick leave law in San Diego is similar to the state law. Workers earn one hour of paid sick leave after working 30 hours within the city limits. However, the cap for accrued sick leave is 80 hours within the city limits. Unused sick time carries over to the following year.

Also, employers can cap paid sick leave at 40 hours per benefit year. An employer can choose to give employees a minimum of 40 hours of paid sick time at the beginning of each year to meet the carryover and accrual requirements. 

What Situations Qualify for Using Paid Sick Time?

If an employee is sick, they may take paid sick time. Conditions that qualify for paid sick time include physical conditions, illnesses, mental health conditions, and injuries. In addition to these conditions, employees may use paid sick leave for:

  • Taking care of a sick family member
  • Attending medical appointments for health care, treatment, or diagnosis
  • The employer closes for a health emergency
  • A child’s school closes for a public health emergency
  • Pregnancy-related conditions 
  • Other medical reasons
  • The use of Safe Time (being out of work because of sexual assault, domestic violence, or stalking)

The employer may set policies regarding how to notify the employer that you need to take sick time. They may also include unpaid sick leave time or other benefits. However, the policies cannot violate California’s local or state sick time laws.

Furthermore, some employers may use sick time policies that pre-dated the new law that took effect in 2015. However, the employer’s existing paid time off policy must provide at least the same amount of paid sick time for an employee to use as the new law. 

Can My Employer Retaliate for an Employee Taking Paid Sick Time?

The law specifically states that an employer cannot deny an employee the right to use their accrued sick time. Employers cannot retaliate for the use of paid sick time by punishing an employee by:

The law also prohibits the employer from retaliating because an employee files a complaint alleging the employer violated sick time laws or the employee cooperates with an investigation. Employers may face government penalties and civil damages for retaliating against employees for exercising their legal rights. 

To learn more, call our San Diego law firm at 619-693-7727 or contact us online.

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About The Author

Nicholas J. Ferraro

Nicholas J. Ferraro is a skilled labor and employment lawyer and the founder of Ferraro Vega Employment Lawyers, Inc. Based in San Diego, he focuses on representing employees in class action and collective litigation cases. Education: Mr. Ferraro attended the University of San Diego School of Law, where he was a member of the San Diego Law Review. Experience: Over a decade of legal practice, representing more than 100,000 employees. Court Admissions: Mr. Ferraro represents his clients throughout the State of California and the State of Washington. He is a member of the State Bar of California. Community Involvement: Active member of the California Employment Lawyers Association and the San Diego County Bar Association.