Californians Can Claim COVID-Related Sick Leave for Four More Months

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Quinci LeGardye | California Black Media

More Californians now qualify for COVID-related paid sick leave.

Thanks to the state’s 2021 COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave law, SB 95, which went into effect in March and was introduced by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) in December last year. But eligiblilty for that compensation will continue for only four more months.

Qualifying employees now have access to up to 80 hours of paid time off for reasons related to COVID-19.

The maximum amount of 2021 COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave an employee can receive is $511 per day, or $5,110 in total. This is separate from any paid sick leave taken in 2020. The law is retroactive, extending eligibility back to Jan. 1, 2021, through  Sept. 30. Before the 2021 law passed, Californians were only eligible for three days of paid sick leave based on provisions in the previous 2020 expanded paid sick leave legislation. That law expired Jan. 1.

On April 26, the California Department of Industrial Relations announced the launch of an online eligibility tool that workers can use to determine whether they qualify for the expanded paid sick leave.

In the announcement, Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower said, “The 2021 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave law provides workers up to 80 hours of paid sick leave if they or a family member are unable to work or telework due to COVID-19, including for vaccine-related reasons. We designed this tool so workers and their employers can get information on workers’ paid sick leave options.”

According to the website, in order to be eligible, workers must be unable to work or telework because they were caring for themselves due to COVID-19, caring for a child or another family member, or attending a vaccine appointment. Other qualifying circumstances include caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19 on the premises.

The 2021 supplemental paid sick leave is only available for those working for employers that have 26 or more employees. The 2021 law also only applies to W-2 employees, unlike the 2020 law which applied to independent contractors in the food sector. If a person believes they are an employee misclassified as an independent contractor, they may be entitled to receive the expanded paid sick leave.

The amount of paid leave each worker receives is based on an employee’s work schedule. Employees are entitled to 80 hours of paid leave if they are considered full time, or if they worked or were scheduled to work an average of at least 40 hours per week in the two weeks before they take the leave. Part-time employees with fixed schedules are entitled to the number of hours the employee is scheduled to work over two weeks.

Part-time employees without fixed schedules are entitled to take 14 times the average number of hours they worked each day in the six months prior to their leave. Newly hired part-time workers without fixed schedules are entitled to the number of hours that they worked in the previous two weeks.

The expanded paid sick leave is paid out by employers with more than 25 employees. If an employer refuses to pay for the leave, the employee can file a claim with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office.

For more  information on the paid sick leave program or to check eligibility, visit the California Department of Industrial Relations website.

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