When it comes to new employment regulations, California has always been an ever-changing landscape with new developments seemingly occurring on a monthly basis. Unfortunately for employers within the state, 2016 has offered no respite, especially with the increased activism of local cities in attempting to be at the forefront of employment reform. Beginning July 1, 2016 and into 2017, some of the largest metropolitan cities in Southern California will see drastic changes to not only wage and hour laws, but also paid sick leave. On the heels of both federal and state reforms to these same two areas in 2015, it is important for all employers to be aware of their newfound obligations.
On June 2, 2016, Mayor Eric Garcetti signed another ordinance into law that requires employers in the city to not only pay a higher minimum wage than mandated by the state, but to also provide more paid sick leave benefits. Specifically, beginning July 1, 2016, the minimum wage for employers with twenty-six (26) of more employees working within the City of Santa Clarita will increase to $10.50 and $10.00 for employers with twenty-five (25) or fewer employees. However, come July 1, 2017, the wages will be increased for both category of employers to $12.00 per hour and $10.50 per hour, respectively.
If a new wage and hour minimum wage for Santa Clarita City wasn't enough, also beginning on July 1, 2016, all employees (regardless of the size of the employer) must be allowed forty-eight (48) house of paid sick leave per year, double the amount of the recently paid sick leave implemented at the state level. The local ordinance even expands the definition of "family members" who can form the basis for requiring leave to include "any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship." One of the other differences between Los Angeles City's sick leave and state law is that Los Angeles City employers may require employees to give "reasonable documentation" of an absence, but the ordinance fails to define what exactly "reasonable documentation" entails.
In terms of accrual, the two methods an employer can utilize to meet the new requirement is to grant forty-eight (48) hours of paid sick time at the beginning of each year, or allow the employee to accrue one hour of sick time for every thirty hours worked. Additionally, for employees who work both beyond and within the city limits are entitled to accrue paid sick time under the new ordinance as long as they work at least two hours per week within city boundaries.
Taking a que from Santa Clarita, on June 7, 2016, San Diego residents voted in favor of passing a proposition that also creates new minimum wage and paid sick leave ordinances within city limits. Similar to Los Angeles, the new minimum wage will increase to $10.50 per hour with the new sick leave ordinance applying to all employers of employees who work at least two hours in the City of San Diego in one or more weeks of a year. However, unlike Los Angeles, the minimum paid sick leave for San Diego is forty (40) hours instead of forty-eight (48).
Accrual in San Diego is based on one hour of paid sick leave for every thirty hours worked and earned unused sick leave may be carried over to the following year, a significant difference from state law which does not afford unlimited accrual. However, despite allowing for "carry over" of unused paid sick leave, an employer may limit the amount of paid sick leave an employee may use to forty (40) hours in a given year.
As is apparent by the unending ordinances and regulations coming down, employee rights is a hot topic issue for California governments. However, with the increasing trend of local level laws overlapping and superseding state laws, it is clear that employers are feeling the brunt of the harm. Nonetheless, as the legislatures would put it, it's the cost of doing business in California. What is certain is that these ongoing changes will not be letting up anytime soon. As such, employers must be ever-vigilant in staying apprised of both state and local ordinances in relation to their employees' rights or face severe penalties and possible litigation. The assistance of employment counsel can help navigate these tumultuous waterways, and although such assistance may have previously been deemed as a luxury beforehand, it is becoming increasingly apparent that employment counsel will soon become a necessity for any employer within the state.