A State legislature bill, SB 114, goes into effect today, but is retroactive from January 1st, 2022 and applies to anyone who works for a company with 26 employees or more.
The bill entitles employees who missed work due to having COVID-19 or caring for a loved one who caught it to 40 hours of paid sick leave. Applicable reasons for use of these hours are: having COVID-19 symptoms, vaccine appointments, caring for a family member with COVID-19 or a child whose school or place of care is closed due to COVID-19.
If the employee exhausts the 40 hours but they or a family member tests positive for COVID-19 then they are entitled to another 40 hours of paid sick leave. If an employer requires an employee to obtain a COVID-19 test or a vaccination, or if the employee obtains the test or vaccination as a direct consequence of the employee’s discharge of the employee’s duties (i.e., the test or vaccination is effectively required for a job), the employer must pay for the costs of the test or vaccination.
However, if the employee does not take the Antigen test or refuses to provide the employer with the results the employer can deny the additional 40 hours.
This bill is similar to the State Bill passed last year that ended in September. Newsom, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and state Senate President pro tem Toni Atkins felt it should be reinstated due to the increase in cases this winter. They feel this bill will help slow the spread while keeping businesses staffed and employees safe.
“Paid sick leave is key to ensuring no worker has to make the impossible choice of going to work sick or losing wages needed to make rent and keep food on the table.” Said Art Pulaski, executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation, in a statement.
Employers are largely responsible for funding this paid sick leave. The bill funds the state labor commissioner $100,000 for the implementation and enforcement of the new paid sick leave rules. While the Legislative Analyst’s Office estimated this bill will cost between $500 million and $1 billion. This year will be different from last year because businesses won’t have cost offsets through federal tax benefits. There is still hope that additional funding may come from the June budget proposal.
There is much concern in the small business and restaurant communities as they fear closure due to the financial burden this bill places on them. As if they weren’t already struggling after having to close during the pandemic, shortages of workers, and spikes in costs for goods and supplies.
“Requiring small businesses and nonprofits to pay up to two weeks of sick pay leave, on top of existing paid leave, is a financial burden that could bankrupt a local store, a local restaurant, or a nonprofit that’s barely holding on by the skin of its teeth,” Assemblyman Vince Fong, R-Kern County, and vice-chair of the budget committee said.
“Asking these small businesses to do so I think is an unnecessary burden when we have the capabilities to step in,” State Sen. Andreas Boregeas, R-Fresno said. He suggests the State use its $31 billion budget surplus to carry the financial burden this policy creates.