How to Calculate Paid Sick Leave Rate in California

How to Calculate Paid Sick Leave Rate in California

California sick leave laws protect workers by providing a minimum number of days of paid sick leave. Workers earn sick leave by the number of hours they work. Unfortunately, some employers violate paid sick leave laws. 

In most cases, sick time is compensated at the employee’s regular rate of pay. Sick pay for exempt employees is calculated the same way the employer calculates wages for other paid leave, such as vacation time. 

For non-exempt employees, sick pay is calculated based on one of the following methods:

  • The regular non-overtime rate of pay during the workweek that the employee took paid sick leave. The rate of pay is calculated by dividing the non-overtime compensation for the week by the non-overtime hours worked.
  • The employee’s total non-overtime wages for the 90 days before sick leave are taken and divided by the total number of non-overtime hours worked during that period. 

Non-exempt workers are paid the same rate of pay for sick leave as they would have received had they worked those hours. California employers who violate paid sick leave law can be ordered to pay damages and penalties.

How Many Paid Sick Hours Do I Receive Each Year in California?

How Many Paid Sick Hours Do I Receive Each Year in California?

The Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act of 2014 requires employers to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours the employee works. The law applies to eligible employees working part-time and full-time for 30 or more days of employment for the same employer within a 12-month period. 

Most employees are covered by the law, including part-time, full-time, per diem, and temporary employees. Exceptions include:

  • Some employees of air carriers
  • Employees covered by certain collective bargaining agreements
  • Retried consultants working for the government 

An employer may limit the number of paid sick leave hours an employee may use in a year to three days or 24 hours. Employers must also allow employees to roll over unused sick pay to the following year. The employer may limit rollover paid sick leave hours to six days or 48 hours per year. 

Employers may develop sick leave policies for their company, but the policies must provide minimum California paid sick leave requirements. In addition, some cities have laws providing additional paid sick leave for employees working within the city limits. 

For example, San Diego developed paid sick leave laws for employers within the city limits. Employees in San Diego earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. The cap for total sick leave accrued is 80 hours. Employers may cap sick time used during a benefit year to 40 hours. 

Accrual vs. Upfront Policies for Paid Sick Time

Using the accrual policy, an employee may earn more than 24 hours of sick time per year. The employee earns one hour for every 30 hours worked. Therefore, a full-time employee could earn more than 52 hours of sick time per year.

Under an upfront policy, the employer provides at least 24 hours of sick time at the beginning of each period. For example, an employer gives each eligible employee 24 hours of sick time on January 1 of each year. When employers use an upfront policy for sick leave, they are not required to allow employees to carry over unused sick leave to the following year. 

How Can an Employee Use Paid Sick Time Under California Law?

The law requires employers to allow employees to use their sick leave when they are sick, attending a doctor’s appointment, or for conditions related to pregnancy. It also allows employees to take paid sick time to care for a sick or disabled family member:

  • Child, including grandchildren, foster children, step-children, and adopted children
  • Spouses and registered domestic partners
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Grandparents 

An employee may also take sick leave for Safe Time. Safe Time is missed work because the employee is a victim of sexual assault, domestic violence, or stalking. 

Can an Employer Require an Employee to Work If the Employee Says They Want to Use Sick Time?

Employers cannot require an employee to work if the employee requests sick time or require employees to find a replacement for their shift before taking sick time. Likewise, an employer cannot retaliate if an employee uses their sick time according to California’s sick time laws. 

Retaliation may include, but is not limited to:

  • Threatening to fire you 
  • Wrongful termination 
  • Demotion
  • Reducing pay
  • Threatening to report you to immigration services 
  • Withholding promotions
  • Creating a hostile work environment
  • Shifting an employee to a less desirable shift or work environment 

If an employer retaliates against an employee for using sick time, the employee may be entitled to damages. Damages in a labor law case can include back pay and payment for withheld sick leave. If the employer fired the employee, the employee might be reinstated. 

Additionally, the employee may receive three times the liquidated damages, up to $4,000, if an employer wrongfully withheld sick days. Finally, the employer may be required to pay the employee’s attorneys’ fees, costs, and administrative penalties. 

What Should I Do If My Employer Violates California Paid Sick Leave Laws?

Contact a San Diego employment attorney to discuss your situation. Employees can file a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner for violations of paid sick leave laws. They may also be able to file a lawsuit seeking damages. 

As you prepare for your appointment with an attorney, gather all information related to your employment and sick leave request. Documents that can help prove your case include, but are not limited to:

  • Pay stubs
  • Employment contracts
  • Company policies
  • Employee handbooks
  • Written requests for sick leave
  • Responses to requests for sick leave 

A sick time dispute lawyer helps you gather additional evidence proving your employer violated employment laws. There are time limits for filing claims for violations of labor laws. Therefore, talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.

Are There Other Laws That Provide Time Off for Illnesses?

Employees could be entitled to unpaid time off for health reasons under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) or the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). These laws provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for eligible employees. The employee must have worked at least 1,250 hours for the employer before taking unpaid leave.

Schedule a Free Consultation with a San Diego Employment Lawyer 

You deserve to be paid your full wages for the hours you work. If you believe your employer has underpaid you or violated California’s sick leave laws, contact our lawyers for a free consultation at (619) 693-7727.