New California COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Law

On March 19, 2021, Governor Newsom signed legislation ensuring new supplemental paid sick leave (SPSL) for eligible workers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill, SB 95, provides up to 80 hours of paid leave for employees who are forced to miss work for qualifying reasons. The SPSL covers many more employers than previous legislation and allows workers to use the leave for more reasons. The law is codified in new California Labor Code sections 248.2 and 248.3, the text of which can be found here. The Labor Commissioner has also issued FAQs, found here, to help employers navigate their new obligations. Below are some of the key aspects of the new law and some of the items addressed in the FAQs.


 All employers, whether public or private with at least 25 employees are required to offer the SPSL. This represents a significant expansion of California’s previous pandemic-related sick leave law, which only applied to employers with more than 500 employees.

The new paid sick leave is available to all employees who cannot work or telework for qualifying reasons. Employees who may not be able to report in person to work, but who may still perform their job duties remotely, will not be eligible for SPSL. Covered employees are entitled to the new SPSL in addition to any paid sick leave that was provided under previous laws that expired on December 31, 2020. This means any employee who used paid sick leave under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) in 2020 will be eligible for up to 80 hours of new SPSL under the California law.

Qualifying Reasons for Taking Leave

 In addition to reaching more employees, the SPSL is available for more qualifying reasons than were found in the FFCRA, including the need to care for family members and the need to miss work to be vaccinated or because of side effects associated with being vaccinated. Specifically, anyone who is unable to work or telework for the below reasons may take the leave:

  • The employee is subject to a quarantine or isolation period (as determined by federal, state, or local health agency guidelines) for reasons related to COVID-19;
  • The employee is caring for a family member who is subject to a quarantine or isolation period (as determined by federal, state, or local health agency guidelines) for reasons related to COVID-19;
  • The employee is attending a vaccine appointment or cannot work or telework due to vaccine-related

Notably, under the FAQs, it is not enough that an employee merely lives with someone who has tested positive, experiences symptoms, or has been exposed. Rather, the employee must be actually caring for a family member who meets the above criteria. In addition, it is not enough that the employee is subject to a general stay-at-home order. Rather, the inability to work or telework must be specific to the employee’s own situation.

Start and End Dates of New SPSL Law

SB-95 was signed into law on March 19 and takes effect March 29, 2021. Once it takes effect, however, the law will apply retroactively to January 1, 2021. This means that any employees who took unpaid leave for qualifying reasons between January 1, 2021 and March 28, 2021 will be entitled to request pay for the leave.

SB 95 also prohibits employers from requiring employees to first use any vacation, PTO, or standard California sick leave (24 hours per year) before enacting their right to the new SPSL. This means that employers will have to replenish any vacation/PTO or sick leave banks that were used earlier in 2021 for absences that would have qualified for the new SPSL.

The Labor Commissioner’s FAQs uses an example of an employee who missed work to get vaccinated in February 2021. Such an employee would be entitled to be paid for that missed time if it was previously unpaid, and would be entitled to have any vacation or standard sick leave used that day to be placed back in the employee’s available bank.

The new SPSL expires on September 30, 2021. However, any employees who have started their leave by that date will be entitled to the full available leave even if providing it extends the employee’s leave beyond September 30.

Amount of Leave Available

 Employees who the employer considers full-time, or who was scheduled to work an average of at least 40 hours per week in the two weeks preceding the leave, are eligible to take up to 80 hours of SPSL.

Part-time employees with routine schedules are entitled to take up to the total number of hours they are routinely scheduled to work over the previous two weeks. Part-time employees with variable schedules are entitled to 14 times the daily average hours they worked over the previous 6 months. If an employee with a varying schedule has worked for the employer for less than 6 months, the employee is eligible to receive 14 times the daily average hours worked over the course of the employee’s employment. Any employee with a varying schedule who has been employed less than 14 days is entitled to up to the total amount of hours they have worked to date.

Rate of Pay

 For each of hour of SPSL that a non-exempt employee is entitled to receive, the employee must be paid at the highest of the following amounts:

  • The employee’s regular rate of pay for the workweek in which the leave is taken;
  • A rate calculated by dividing the employee’s total wages, not including overtime premium, by the employee’s total hours worked in the full pay periods of the prior 90 days of employment
  • State or local minimum wage

For exempt employees, employers must compensate SPSL in the same manner that the employer compensates other forms of paid leave time.

Under no circumstances, however, must an employer pay a covered employee more than $511 per day for SPSL or $5,110 in the aggregate. Employees who earn more than that may be able to utilize other forms of paid leave, such as vacation or standard paid sick leave, to supplement the difference.

Employees Must Request the Leave

 Employees must request the new SPSL, either orally or in writing, to receive it. However, employers are required to conspicuously display a poster, found here, notifying employees of their right to SPSL.

Employer Right to Offset Other Leave Provided

 Under the new law, if an employer provides an employee with other paid leave in 2021 that is payable for the qualifying reasons that SPSL is payable, the employer may count those hours toward meeting its SPSL obligations. The employer may only do so, however, if it pays the other leave in at least the same amount that the employee would otherwise be entitled to under the new law.

For example, while federal COVID-19 leave under the FFCRA expired at the end of 2020, employers are able to voluntarily offer FFCRA leave—and take advantage of its tax credit provisions—through September 30, 2021. Employers who choose to continue offering FFCRA leave will simultaneously satisfy their new California SPSL obligations as long as the employee receives the same amount of pay he or she would get under the SPSL law. California employers would be wise to continue offering the FFCRA leave in lieu of the new California SPSL, because only the former affords employers the right to seek tax reimbursements for the payments.

Employers may also offset any qualifying pandemic-related paid leave made available to employees pursuant to local laws.

Record-Keeping and Paystubs

 The new SPSL law also requires to list the amount of leave available as a separate line item on employee paystubs. Because the SPSL is in addition to regular paid sick leave, the two items

must be separately listed on an employee’s paystub. For example, if an employee has 80 hours of SPSL available and 16 hours of regular paid sick leave available, the employee’s wage statement must separately reflect both totals rather than merely list 96 total hours of available sick leave. Like records pertaining to regular paid sick leave, employers must maintain records pertaining to employees’ used and available SPSL for a three-year period.

California employers with any questions about their rights and obligations under the new California Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Law should reach out to the Weintraub Tobin Labor & Employment team.

FFCRA Tax Credits for Paid Sick Leave and Emergency Family Leave Extended Through September 2021

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“ARPA”) was signed by President Biden on March 11, 2021.  Part 5 of the ARPA provides for additional credits to employers whose choose to grant paid sick leave and emergency family leave to eligible employees under the FFCRA.

To be clear, the ARPA does not require employers provide FFCRA leave to employees. That mandate expired on December 31, 2020.  However, the continuation of certain tax credits for employers who voluntarily provide FFCRA leave has been extended from March 31, 2021 until the end of September, 2021.

Additionally, the ARPA made some other changes to expand employee eligibility (reasons) for taking FFCRA leave, reset the cap on the total amount of paid sick leave an employee can take, and increased the cap on wages paid for emergency family leave. Below is a summary of some of the main changes made by the ARPA.

Updated CDC Guidance: Fully Vaccinated Individuals Need Not Quarantine After COVID-19 Exposure

The CDC’s guidelines state that individuals should quarantine for 14 days after contact with someone with COVID-19, which can be reduced to 10 days if no symptoms developed after exposure.  Now that vaccines are becoming more widely available, employers are asking whether the quarantine period can be shortened or eliminated for their workers who have received the vaccine.

The CDC has stated that the quarantine period can be eliminated entirely for a fully vaccinated individual who meets all criteria – but the guidance is conditioned on the individual meeting all three criteria:

The criteria for allowing a vaccinated individual to skip quarantine – and continue working – after exposure to a COVID-19 case, are:

Cares Act Provider Relief Funds: Reporting Set To Begin In 2021; New Reporting Requirements

The Health Resources and Services Administration (“HRSA”) has completed review of Phase 3 applications for the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund (“PRF”) and expects to distribute $24.5 billion to over 70,000 health care providers by the end of this month. These payments are intended to cover loss revenues attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to HRSA, over 35,000 Phase 3 applicants will not receive any additional payment because they either experienced no change in revenues or net expenses attributable to COVID-19, or those that have already received funds that equal or exceed reimbursement of 88% of reported losses.1

COVID-19 Stimulus Bill also Includes Little-known Provision Creating New Streamlined Tribunal for Copyright Infringement Claims

Nearly unnoticed in the wrangling over the amount of COVID relief payments, the stimulus bill signed into law on December 27, 2020 also included several interesting intellectual property provisions.  Buried thousands of pages into the bill, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019 (the “CASE Act”) establishes a small claims court-type system under the U.S. Copyright Office for copyright holders to pursue low-value claims of copyright violations.

As it stands now, copyright infringement litigation is time-consuming and expensive, especially for small copyright holders.  Copyright infringement is rife on social media, leaving content creators with few options short of hiring a lawyer, sending cease-and-desist letters, and filing lawsuits.  The attorney’s fees for such litigation can easily exceed the recovery for copyright infringement, leaving the content creator at a serious disadvantage.

The CASE Act seeks to address this sort of low-level infringement by setting up a Copyright Claims Board as a mediator to handle small cases of copyright infringement.  For registered copyrighted works, the maximum claim would be $15,000 per work and $30,000 per claim, and unregistered copyrighted works are eligible for half that amount.  The Copyright Claims Board can also issue notices to cease infringement.

This should significantly reduce the time and expense of pursuing legitimate low-value copyright infringement claim.  On the other hand, it may also make it easier for so-called “copyright trolls” to pursue numerous baseless claims for low dollar amounts.  Unsophisticated parties may not realize that they can opt-out of the streamlined process, and may not assert defenses like fair use.

Copyright holders and legal commentators will be watching closely to see how the CASE Act works in practice.  It may provide a real tool in the fight against infringement, or may be a nuisance that serves only to chill speech and run up legal fees.  Content creators struggling for credit for their work certainly deserve to have their intellectual property protected, and hope that the CASE Act will live up to their expectations.

COVID Relief Bill: PPP-Paid Expenses Are Deductible (Updated 12/28/2020)

This past Monday, December 21, a $900 billion pandemic relief bill came out of the U.S. House and Senate. It is called the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. If President Trump signs it, it will become law. Weighing in at 5,593 pages in length, it addresses many areas, including vaccines, education, childcare, jobless benefits, energy, and national security.

Part of the bill is the COVID-Related Tax Relief Act of 2020 (COVIDTRA). One reason why COVIDTRA is getting attention is that it provides direct payments to individual taxpayers, “recovery rebates” – similar to the direct payments that went out to individuals earlier this year.

Another thing COVIDTRA does is clarify that taxpayers whose Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans are forgiven ARE allowed deductions for otherwise deductible expenses that were paid with PPP loan proceeds. See COVIDTRA Section 276(a)(1). This overrides the IRS’s earlier position that businesses could not claim deductions for expenses paid with PPP loan proceeds when the loan is forgiven or expected to be forgiven. COVIDTRA also clarifies the tax basis and other attributes of the PPP borrower’s assets will not be reduced as a result of PPP loan forgiveness.

When a PPP loan is forgiven, the borrower does not need to include the amount of the forgiven PPP loan in taxable income. That is a great benefit for the borrower. Now, under COVIDTRA, the ability for taxpayers to deduct expenses paid with forgiven PPP loan money further amplifies the benefits of the PPP loan.

For example, think about a partnership that gets a $100 PPP loan. The partnership spends the $100 on PPP-specific expenses (payroll, rent, etc.), and then has the PPP loan forgiven. The partnership does not pay any federal income tax on the $100. Also, according to COVIDTRA, the partnership can reduce its taxable income by $100 by deducting the $100 that it spent on the PPP-specific expenses. If the owners of the partnership are all taxed at a rate of 37% on ordinary income passed through from the partnership, $100 of PPP money (received tax free) also saves them $37 in taxes.

If it becomes law, this will be a significant tax benefit for many businesses.

On Tuesday, December 22, President Trump threatened not to sign the bill, pressing for higher direct payments and changes to various provisions.  However, on Sunday, December 27, he signed the bill as passed by Congress.

If you have further questions, please contact:

Jim Clarke – 916.558.6084

WEBINAR: Employment Law Update 2020/2021 – Part I & Part II

  • When: Jan 6, 2021
  • Where: Webinar

Summary of Program

Our Labor & Employment Group presents our annual Employment Law Update where they discuss important legal developments from 2020 and review a number of new employment laws and relevant court cases impacting employers in 2021

Program Highlights – Part 1 of 2

This part will focus on:

  • Class Actions
  • Independent Contractors Status
  • Wage and Hour Obligations Specific to Non-Exempt Employees
  • Wage and Hour Obligations Specific to Exempt Employees

This seminar was presented and recorded on January 6, 2021. A recording of this webinar can be viewed on the Weintraub Tobin YouTube page. Please note that this webinar is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. We recommend that you speak to your professional advisors about the specifics of your business.

Program Highlights – Part 2 of 2

This part will focus on developments in:

  • COVID-19 Specific Laws
  • Harassment, Discrimination and Retaliation Law
  • Leaves of Absence and Reasonable Accommodations Laws
  • Employment, Arbitration and Confidentiality Agreements
  • Privacy Laws

This seminar was presented and recorded on January 13, 2021. A recording of this webinar can be viewed on the Weintraub Tobin YouTube page. Please note that this webinar is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. We recommend that you speak to your professional advisors about the specifics of your business.

Lukas Clary in The Sacramento Bee: A COVID Vaccine is On The Way. Will Employers Require Their Workers Get The Shot?

Sacramento Bee reporter Darrell Smith spoke with labor and employment attorney Lukas Clary for his article on the coming COVID vaccines and whether employers might require their workers to get vaccinated.

With a look at past precedent — H1N1 — we can conclude that an employer will be able to require a vaccination as a condition of employment,” said Lukas Clary, an employment law attorney at Sacramento firm Weintraub Tobin.

But, Clary added, the issue isn’t that straightforward. If the workers are represented by a union, a COVID-19 vaccination program may have to be negotiated with the employees’ bargaining unit. Employers must also consider an employee’s religious beliefs that preclude them from being vaccinated or a medical reason for not taking a vaccine. Liability is also a concern, Clary said. Even if businesses are able to require vaccinations, “It may not be what they want to do,” Clary said. “If someone had an adverse reaction (to the vaccine), it could trigger a workers’ compensation claim.

Clary’s advice: “Encourage but stop short of requiring it. That may be the safe approach for now.

Read the full article here.

Josh Escovedo in the Sacramento Business Journal: An Attorney’s Take on Enforcing Covid-19 Rules

Real estate litigation attorney Josh Escovedo is quoted in the Sacramento Business Journal on his take on the inconsistencies and difficulties of enforcing Covid-19 restrictions relating to businesses.

Government must find a balance between enforcing its rules and protecting the livelihood of small businesses, which can be a difficult position, Escovedo said. 

Read the full article here.

A Deeper Dive into the New Cal/OSHA Temporary Emergency Standards for COVID-19 Prevention

As we wrote on December 3, 2020, an emergency COVID-19 rule was adopted and approved by the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board. The regulation contains significant new requirements including a mandatory written “COVID-19 Prevention Program,” paid time off in certain circumstances when a “COVID-19 case” is excluded from the workplace, notice and training requirements, and requires that employers offer testing in some situations.

The emergency standards will remain in effect for 180 days unless renewed, withdrawn or replaced. It applies to all California employers covered by Cal/OSHA (generally, employers with ten or more employees at any time during the year).

This blog summarizes and highlights some of the key provisions (other than the requirement that employers develop a written “COVID-19 Prevention Program” as discussed in our previous blog).