The Dish on Paid Time Off: How Will a New Requirement to Offer PTO Impact Local Employers?

By Lucia Ruiz, Comstock’s Magazine

New legislation mandates California businesses to provide paid sick days to employees who do not already have access to paid time off. The Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act (Assembly Bill 1522) was signed by Gov. Brown in September, making California the second state to implement statewide paid sick leave, following Connecticut.

The law, effective July 1 of this year, will entitle employees who have worked in California for 30 days or more paid sick leave for themselves or for a family member within a year from the start of employment. Employees are entitled to one hour for every 30 hours worked, but the employer may limit the use of sick days to 24 hours. Employees can accrue paid sick days to the next year, and accrued days can be reinstated if the employee is separated from the employer and rehired within one year. AB 1522 does not provide exemptions for small businesses or government employers.

Proponents of the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act include California Work and Family Coalition, Health Officers Association of California and California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO (a co-sponsor of the bill). They highlight the positive impact and long-term wellness benefits for employees who have access to PTO, saying it will benefit the 40 percent of Californians who do not already have the benefit.

Lizbeth West, shareholder at Weintraub Tobin, says this bill will also benefit employees who already receive PTO by allowing them to take “paid sick days for reasons that employers may not otherwise have designated.”

But the food-service industry has particular concerns about the bill. Chris Jarosz, a Sacramento restaurateur and president of the California Restaurant Association’s Sacramento chapter, says restaurants, unlike other types of employers, are being forced to “double the cost of an employee’s day off, because we have to pay a replacement to cover the shift. For a restaurant, it creates a huge extra expense.

“All of us in the hospitality industry value our employees and want to take care of our people,” he says, “but in this case it makes it very hard on us.”
Other opponents of the bill include the California Chamber of Commerce and California Employment Law Council. These groups maintain an alternative to mandatory PTO should be implemented, saying the law should incentivize PTO and reduce costs for employers in other areas in order to make paid sick leave more affordable for businesses.

The bill does not cover union workers, employees in the construction industry, providers of in-home supportive services and individuals employed by an air carrier, such as a flight deck or crew member.

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