As the July 1, 2015 deadline for employers to implement California’s new paid sick leave law approaches, employers are finding a number of ambiguities in the law that make it challenging to implement. The Office of the Labor Commissioner seems to be facing the same challenges, because it recently changed its position with respect to the notice provisions of the law.

The paid sick leave law, known as the “Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014,” requires employers to provide employees with at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked starting on July 1, 2015. Alternatively, employers may provide a lump sum of 3 days or 24 hours of leave per year. The Act also requires the Labor Commissioner’s Office, through the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), to create a wage notice for employers to distribute to employees.

The Labor Commissioner’s Office initially published the form in December 2014. At that time, the DLSE took the position that the “Wage Theft Prevention Act Notice to Employee” form must be distributed to all non-exempt employees by January 1, 2015. Many employers rushed to distribute the form to meet the New Year’s Day deadline.

However, in February of 2015, the agency modified its position. Now, according to the “Frequently Asked Questions” page on the Department of Industrial Relations website , all new employees hired on or after January 1, 2015, must be given the notice at the time of hire. As to employees who were hired prior to January 1, 2015, the notice must be given within seven days of the date that the sick plan is implemented. Since the deadline for implementation is July 1, 2015, the notice must be given to existing employees by no later than July 8, 2015.

The agency has taken the position that even if the employer’s existing written paid leave policy or sick leave policy already complies with the new law and will not be changed as a result of the law the employer must still distribute the notice.

An employer does not necessarily need to use the agency’s published form; it may use another writing so long as it contains information about the new paid sick leave law and how the employer intends to meet the requirements of the new law for the particular employee. The agency’s FAQ states,

For example, a writing provided to the employee which refers to or summarizes the existing policy and contains the points of information specified in the revised notice form which is timely provided to each employee would be compliant with the individual notice requirement.

With four months to go before the sick pay mandate becomes effective, employers should immediately begin redrafting sick pay or paid time off (PTO) policies and start planning the implementation of these new standards. Stay tuned, because undoubtedly the Labor Commissioner’s Office will continue to update its policies relating to this new law.


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