California Law Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Brad Nakase, Attorney

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Can an employee in California use their paid sick leave if they have coronavirus or COVID-19?

Yes. The employer must allow employees to use their available paid sick leave for corona-virus or COVID-19. They will receive compensation as per the California paid sick leave laws.

Under California’s existing paid sick leave laws paid sick leave can be used for absence due:

  • Employee or employee’s family member’s illness

  • Diagnosis or care of an existing medical condition for an employee or employee’s family member.

  • Preventative care for an employee or employee’s family member

In terms of coronavirus COVID-19, self-quarantine counts as preventative care. If an employee has been exposed to coronavirus COVID-19 or has traveled to a high-risk area, they can use paid sick leave to quarantine.

Can other paid leave be used if an employee uses up their paid sick leave?

Other leave may be available if an employee is not eligible for, or has already used their paid sick leave. An employee may choose to take vacation leave or other paid time off. The employee must receive compensation under the terms of that paid leave policy.

Can an employer require a quarantined worker to use up their paid sick leave?

No. It must be the employee’s choice to use paid sick leave; the employer can’t force the employee. Employers can require a worker to use a minimum of two hours of sick leave if the employee chooses to use paid sick leave. Aside from that, the amount of paid sick leave an employee uses is up to the employee.

What are my options if my children’s school or daycare closes because of COVID-19?

Employees should discuss this with their employers. Employers may already have a paid leave policy in place that the employee can use. Some employers who have over 25 employees may have up to 40 years of leave for school-related emergencies. Depending on the policy, this may be paid or unpaid leave. Employers can make employees use their paid leave or vacation leave for this purpose. The employer cannot require employees to use paid sick leave for this purpose; it must be employee choice.

Can an employer ask their employees to tell them if they have traveled to a high-risk country?

Yes. Employers can require employees to tell them if they have traveled or are planning to travel to high-risk countries. Employees have a right to medical privacy, so employers cannot require employees to disclose medical information.

If an employee reports to work but is sent home, are they entitled to compensation?

When employees attend work, but work less hours, they must be compensated for between two and four hours pay.

For example, if an employee reports to an eight-hour shift but only works one hour, they are entitled to four hours pay. This means they are paid for half of their eight-hour shift. One hour for the time worked, and then three hours reporting time pay.

Does reporting time apply if a state of emergency is declared?

In the case that the civil authorities recommend a discontinuation of operations, then reporting time does not apply. If there is a state of emergency, but authorities do not recommend ceasing operations then reporting time pay applies.

If I am an exempt employee and my workplace is shutdown, am I entitled to a full week’s salary?

Employees are only considered as exempt if they meet all qualifications for exemption and are paid the minimum required salary or more. Under federal law, employers must pay exempt employees their full weekly salary even if they don’t work that week due to a lack of work.

An employer can reduce the exempt employee’s weekly salary if they do not perform any work at all that week.

An employer is not allowed to make deductions if an exempt employee is absent for part of a day. This only applies if the absence is due to sickness or personal reasons. If the exempt employee works even a little bit of the day, they cannot have their salary deducted.

Under federal law, the employer can pay this from their accrued sick leave. However, if an exempt employee does not yet have enough sick leave, the employer may not make deductions.

An employer may make deductions if the exempt employee was absent for a full day due to personal reasons, not sickness. The provisions for this are that work must have been available to the employee if they had chosen to work.

What protection do employees have if an employer retaliates against them for using paid sick leave?

The Labor Commissioner’s Office protects employees from employer retaliation for exercising their rights. Employees can file a discrimination or retaliation complaint with the Labor Commissioner’s Office. It is important to note that immigration-related threats are considered illegal retaliation.

As this is an unprecedented situation, employers and employees should discuss their options for leave. Make sure you know if leave would be paid or unpaid and how much time off you are entitled to.

If you require a San Diego employment lawyer, then call Brad Nakase at the Nakase Law Firm. Call today on  619-550-1321 to book a free consultation.

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