Los Angeles County Requires COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave

May 5, 2020

As previously reported, in response to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), California’s governor, through an executive order, implemented emergency measures to provide COVID-19-related paid sick leave benefits to food sector employees who work for companies with 500 or more employees and who are otherwise excluded from the FFCRA’s provisions. Various California cities also implemented paid sick leave ordinances for large employers, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose. Los Angeles County has now done so as well.

With the largest population of any county in the United States, LA County includes over 80 incorporated cities and over 100 unincorporated areas. On April 28, 2020, the LA County Board of Supervisors passed an interim urgency ordinance. The ordinance requires nongovernmental employers that employ, directly or indirectly, 500 or more employees nationally who are not covered by the FFCRA or the governor’s executive order applicable to food sector workers to provide supplemental paid COVID-19-related sick leave to employees who perform work within the unincorporated areas of the county. The effective date of the ordinance is March 31 and it expires on Dec. 31, 2020, unless the board extends it.

If an employee makes a written request, employers must provide supplemental paid sick leave as a result of the employee not being able to work, or telework, because:

  1. a public health official or healthcare provider requires or recommends the employee isolate or self-quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19;
  2. the employee is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 (e.g., is at least 65 years old or has a health condition such as heart disease, asthma, lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease or weakened immune system);
  3. the employee needs to care for a family member who is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 or has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19; or
  4. the employee needs to take time off work to care for a family member whose senior-care provider, school or child-care provider ceases operations in response to a public health or other public official’s recommendation.

Employers can choose not to provide supplemental paid sick leave to employees who are emergency responders or healthcare providers and may require a doctor’s note or other documentation before granting any supplemental paid sick leave.

The ordinance requires the following amount of supplemental paid sick leave:

  1. An employee who works at least 40 hours per week or who is classified as a full-time employee is entitled to receive 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave. The leave is calculated based on the employee’s highest average two-week pay over the period of Jan. 1, 2020, through the effective date of the ordinance.
  2. An employee who works less than 40 hours per week and who is not classified as a full-time employee by the employer is entitled to receive supplemental paid sick leave in an amount no greater than the employee’s average two-week pay over the period of Jan. 1, 2020, through the effective date of the ordinance.

In no event is an employee entitled to be paid more than $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate.

The leave afforded by the ordinance is in addition to any paid sick leave available under state law and is independent of any rights and remedies afforded to employees by other federal, state or local laws. Employers also cannot require employees to use any other paid or unpaid leave, paid time off or vacation time before using the leave afforded under the ordinance or in lieu of such leave. If, however, the employer has provided paid leave for COVID-19-related reasons since March 31 beyond the employer’s regular or previously accrued leaves, the employer can offset each hour already provided against the 80-hour requirement under the ordinance. A collective bargaining agreement also can expressly waive, in clear and unambiguous terms, the ordinance’s requirements.

Finally, the ordinance permits employees to enforce it in court, specifies the remedies available for violations, including an award of attorneys’ fees, and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights under the ordinance.

For questions about how LA County’s ordinance may affect your business, contact any of the McGuireWoods team members listed below, or any other member in the labor and employment group.

McGuireWoods has established a COVID-19 Response Team to help clients navigate urgent and evolving legal and business issues arising from the novel coronavirus pandemic. Lawyers in the firm’s 21 offices are ready to assist quickly on questions involving healthcare, labor and employment, education, real estate and more. For assistance, contact a team member or email [email protected].

McGuireWoods has published additional thought leadership analyzing how companies across industries can address crucial business and legal issues related to COVID-19.