Employment Law Alert: San Diego Amends Its Sick Leave Rules Effective 9-2-16

The City of San Diego recently adopted an implementing ordinance that changes certain requirements of its sick leave ordinance.  While the original San Diego sick leave ordinance took effect on July 11, 2016, the new amendments take effect on September 2, 2016.

We consider these to be the most important changes taking effect on September 2, 2016:

  • Lump Sum Method:  While the original San Diego sick leave ordinance did not authorize employers to provide a yearly lump sum allotment of sick leave in lieu of the mandatory accrual standard of 1 hour of sick leave per 30 hours of work, the implementing ordinance provides that “[a]n Employer may satisfy the accrual and carry-over provisions of [the law] if no less than 40 hours of Earned Sick Leave are awarded to an Employee at the beginning of each Benefit Year for use in accordance with [the law], regardless of the Employee’s status as full-time, part-time, or temporary.” (italics in original).  San Diego’s 40-hour standard is higher than the California state law standard of 3 days or 24 hours for yearly lump sum sick leave.
  • Accrual Cap:  While the original San Diego sick leave ordinance did not allow an employer to set a maximum cap on sick leave accrual, the implementing ordinance provides that “Employers may cap an Employee’s total accrual of Earned Sick Leave at 80 hours.” (italics in original).  San Diego’s 80-hour standard is higher than the California state law standard of 6 days or 48 hours.
  • Exempt Employee Sick Leave Pay Rate:  While California state law requires that employers compensate exempt employees for sick leave “in the same manner as the employer calculates wages for other forms of paid leave time,” the San Diego implementing ordinance requires that exempt employees “must be compensated at the same rate or in the same manner as the Employer calculates compensation for paid working time.”  (underline added; italics in original).  While these rates may be the same in many cases, employers should carefully note the distinction and account for it in any cases where the pay rates would differ.

Particularly in light of the recent wave of sick leave laws enacted across California (and the country), we recommend that employers work with legal counsel to update their sick leave and paid time off (PTO) policies for compliance.

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