The Cities of San Diego, Los Angeles and Santa Monica Have Imposed Sick Leave Ordinances on Employers

So far this year three cities in Southern California have passed ordinances mandating certain sick leave requirements for employers. These ordinances are considerably more liberal then the state sick leave laws mandated by the State of California.  Under California law as long as the ordinances passed by cities have sick leave policies offering at least as much protection for employees as the state laws, the local ordinances will control. If employers in one city have workers travelling to other cities to work, the employer must track each employees hours spent in the other city if the other city has a sick leave ordinance. The employer must comply with the sick leave ordinances in the other cities that have the ordinances based on the hours worked in that city by the employee.

San Diego


Thanks to a votes’ initiative that passed in June 2016, San Diego will have its own paid sick leave policy of five days (40 hours). This is in excess of the California Sick Leave law  that allows employers to limit use of accrued paid sick leave to three days (24 hours).

Like the state law, San Diego’s paid sick leave will accrue at one hour for every 30 hours worked and cannot be used until after 90 days of employment.  San Diego’s sick leave initiative allows accrued leave to be front loaded or accrued, and it must be carried over year to year. This provision is the same as state law.

The San Diego law differs from state law in that employees may accrue an unlimited amount of sick leave.  However, employers may limit the amount an employee can use to 40 hours per year.  If a business is not within San Diego city limits, if an employee performs at least two hours of work per week within San Diego, they accrue paid sick leave for the hours they work within the city. In-home supportive services, workers employed under a publicly subsidized summer or short-term youth employment program, or any student employee, camp, or program counselor of an organized camp under State law are exempted.

The Particulars:

Employees begin to accrue sick leave on commencement of employment, or the Ordinances effective date (which looks like it will be July 2016), whichever is later.

Employees are entitled to begin using sick leave 90 days after the commencement of employment, or the Ordinances effective date, whichever is later.

Employers are authorized to limit the use of earned leave to 40 hours in a twelve-month period.
Employers cannot cap the accrual of sick leave and unused time must be carried over.
Upon an employee's separation, employers are not required to pay unused leave, but the employer must maintain it for six months if the employee returns. This is the same as state law.

Leave can be used if an employee is physically or mentally unable to work due to illness, injury, or a medical condition, including pregnancy; for "Safe Time" (time away necessary to handle certain matters of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, when the employee or a designated family member is a victim); for medical appointments; and to care for family members (a child, spouse, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling or the child or parent of a spouse) with an illness, injury, or medical condition.

Notification and Record Keeping Requirements

San Diego employers are required to post bulletins and notices regarding the new minimum wage and sick leave laws. Below is a summary of the key requirements.

Employers are required to post bulletins announcing the minimum wage for the upcoming year and its effective date.

Employers are also required to post notices in the workplace informing employees of the current minimum wage, the employee's rights to minimum wage and earned sick leave, information about the accrual and use of earned sick leave, the right to be free from retaliation, and the right to file a complaint with the enforcement office or a court of competent jurisdiction.

The notices and bulletins must be posted in a conspicuous place in the workplace or job site in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Tagalog, and any language spoken by at least five percent of the employees at the workplace or job site.

Employers are also required to maintain written or electronic records documenting their employees' wages earned and the accrual and use of earned sick leave. Employers are required to retain these records for a period of at least three years.

Remedies and Civil Penalties

An employer who violates the provisions of the Ordinance may be subject to legal action or civil penalties, as follows:

An employee may bring a legal or equitable action for harm caused by violation of the Ordinance. An employee is entitled to relief, including, but not limited to, withheld back wages, liquidated damages equal to double withheld back wages, damages for denial of use of accrued sick leave, reinstatement, and reasonable attorney's fees and costs.

An employer who violates the provisions of the Ordinance is subject to a civil penalty for each violation up to, but not to exceed, $1,000 per violation.

An employer who fails to comply with the notice and posting requirements is subject to a civil penalty of $100 for each employee who was not given appropriate notice, up to a maximum of $2,000.

An employee is not required to submit a complaint to the designated enforcement office in order to bring a private cause of action against his or her employer.

Los Angeles

Beginning July 1, 2016, Los Angeles employers with at least 26 employees – and, on January 1, 2017, employers with fewer than 26 employees – must comply with two new laws.

Los Angeles employers must provide six days (48 hours) of paid sick leave per year. Even if a business is not within city limits, if an employee performs at least two hours of work per week within the city, they accrue paid sick leave for the hours they work within the city limits. Like the state law and the San Diego law, the new Los Angeles law requires that all employees receive this sick leave (or participate in an equally generous PTO plan), including part-time and temporary employees, who must accrue this benefit at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, and they must be able to access it after 90 days of employment. Also like the state law, the benefit may be front loaded or accrued and carried over to the next year.

Santa Monica

Starting January 1, 2017, Santa Monica employers with more than 50 employees must provide nine days (72 hours) of paid sick leave. The application, accrual, and carryover procedures are the same as the San Diego and Los Angeles laws.

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