Employment Law Alert: Amendments to San Francisco’s Sick Leave Law

On June 7, 2016, San Francisco voters approved amendments to the City’s sick leave law to take effect on January 1, 2017. The amendments generally expand San Francisco’s law to match more generous provisions of California’s state sick leave law, and broaden employee rights somewhat further.

We consider these to be the most significant amendments:

  • Sick Leave Pay Rate: The pay rate will mirror the California state law standard, dispensing with more complex pay formulas under the existing San Francisco ordinance. More specifically, employers will be required to pay non-exempt employees for sick leave using either: (a) the “regular rate” of pay for the workweek (i.e., the same rate that would be used to calculate any overtime pay due, before applying the overtime premium multiplier); or (b) a rate computed by dividing total wages, not including overtime premium pay, by the employee’s total hours worked in the full pay periods of the prior 90 days of employment. Employers will be required to pay exempt employees for sick leave in the same manner used for other forms of paid leave.
  • Usage Increments:  The amendments prohibit an employer from requiring employees to take sick leave in increments greater than 1 hour. This is more generous to employees than the California state law standard of 2 hours.
  • Lump Sum Approach Clarification:  The amendments provide that if an employer provides a lump sum of yearly allotment of sick leave, it will be treated as an advance on future accrual. Once the employee has worked enough hours to have accrued the allocation (i.e., based upon 1 hour of sick leave per 30 hours of work), accrual must recommence. The amendments provide that “[a]ny advance of paid sick leave. . . shall occur pursuant to an employer’s written policy or, absent an applicable written policy, shall be documented in writing to the affected employee.” Unlike California state law, San Francisco does not provide the option of a yearly allotment approach that would allow an employer to provide less than 1 hour of sick leave per 30 hours of work.
  • Organ/Bone Marrow Donation:  The amendments expand the reasons why employees may take sick leave to include donating bone marrow or an organ, and/or to care for a person (including family members, and a person designated by the employee for care if the employee has no spouse or domestic partner) donating bone marrow or an organ to another person.

We recommend that employers with any employees working in San Francisco review and update their policies to ensure compliance by January 1, 2017

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