Waiting on Guidance on Berkeley’s Paid Sick Leave Law

In 2016, Berkeley City Council joined their peers in neighboring Oakland, Emeryville and San Francisco,adopting a city-specific paid sick leave law that goes into effect in October 2017.

The Berkeley ordinance requires employers to pay employees for their time away from work when they or their family members are sick. This local ordinance ups the employer requirements and employee benefits provided by California’s statewide paid sick leave law.

Like the California law, Berkeley’s law requires that leave accrue at a rate of at least one hour for every 30 hours worked and employees are eligible to use paid sick leave after 90 days of employment, though accrual begins on an employee’s first day. Leave can be used for illnesses, injuries, doctor’s appointments, or other medical reasons. Leave can also be used to care for a family member.

Unlike state law, which has one cap on accrual, for small businesses (fewer than 25 employees) there is a cap allowance of 48 hours, and for larger employers, it is 72 hours. If the employee does not have a spouse or registered domestic partner, he or she may designate one person for whom leave might be used.

Unlike some other local ordinances, the Berkeley ordinance is detailed in its requirements, which you use to guide employers preemptively preparing to comply with the law in October. For example, the law outlines what postings will be required and when postings in languages other than English are required (i.e., when 5% of the workforce speaks a different language). The Ordinance also states what the fines are for non-compliance (e.g., $1,000 for retaliation and $500 for failing to comply with posting requirements or listing accrual of paid sick leave on payroll records). Those fines are in addition to back pay and other damages to the employee.

The City is also drafting regulations which will provide further guidance and will likely come out sometime in October. The regulations will be worth reading for anyone advising local employers.

The article entitled “Waiting For Guidance on Berkeley’s Paid Sick Leave Law,” authored by Casey L. Williams was published in the April 2017 ALA East Bay Chapter Newsletter published by the ALA East Bay Chapter.