California COVID-19 Paid Leave: What Employers Need to Know

By Kris Janisch
Published Oct. 6, 2020

California COVID-19 Paid Leave Laws

California and several of its cities and counites have enacted paid leave laws related to COVID-19.

As would be expected, California is the nation’s leader in COIVD-19 paid leave laws.

State lawmakers in California have looked to cover nearly every type of employee, and cities and counties have also implemented their own paid leave laws.

COVID-19 webinar employment lawHere, we’ll examine the state and local laws employers need to know as they navigate the COVID-19 employment law landscape in California.

California State COVID-19 Paid Leave Laws

Much of the paid leave action in California has looked to supplement the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which applies to businesses with fewer than 500 employees.

At the state level, California also has:

  • Paid Family Leave – Applies to employers with one or more workers (allows leave for COVID-19 reasons but excepts school closures)
  • COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave – Applies to employers with 500 or more workers nationwide, food sector workers, non-food sector workers, health care providers and first responders
  • Regular Paid Sick Leave – Applies to all employers (allows for COVID-19-related illness, care, treatment, diagnosis, or preventive care for the employee or his or her family member)

Taking a closer look at California’s supplemental paid sick leave, it is in addition to any other paid sick leave an employee may be entitled to through their employment. This law became effective Sept. 9, 2020. If an employee took sick pay for COVID-19 reasons prior that time under the employer’s sick leave policy or PTO, the employee is still entitled to the 80 hours of paid sick leave for COVID-19-related reasons under the supplemental paid sick leave law.

Keep in mind, the employee may not be eligible for additional pay, but employers should also look to see if the worker would be eligible for job protected unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.

Employers should also note that California has several other leave laws, including paid disability, new parental leave, pregnancy disability leave and others.

California Cities and Counties: COVID-19 Paid Leave Laws


Several California cities have enacted paid sick leave laws in response to the coronavirus. They include:

  • Emeryville
  • Long Beach
  • Los Angeles
  • Oakland
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • San Jose
  • Santa Monica
  • Santa Rosa

Generally, these COVID-19 paid sick leave laws allows additional reasons under which an employee may utilize the city required paid sick leave.

Still, cities often have quirks within the ordinances employers should be aware of. For example:

  • Emeryville and San Francisco allow employees to use paid sick leave if employee takes time off because employee is part of a “vulnerable population”
  • Los Angeles and San Diego allow paid sick leave use if the employee is 65 or older and has a serious chronic medical condition described by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Meanwhile, Los Angeles also has a supplemental paid sick leave for employers with 500-plus employees: 80 hours paid sick leave for COVID-19-related reasons.


Lastly, we come to California counties, where three jurisdictions have supplemental paid sick leave laws related to COVID-19:

  • Sonoma
  • San Mateo
  • Los Angeles

Essentially covering the gap of the FFCRA, all three apply to employers with 500 or more employees and apply to unincorporated areas of the county.

There are other differences to note.

  • LA County’s applies to employers with 500-plus employees nationally
  • Sonoma County’s specifically includes health care providers and emergency responders

Sacramento County on Sept. 24, 2020, passed a supplemental paid sick leave ordinance that applies to the unincorporated areas of the county and requires employers with 500 or more employees to provide 80 hours of paid sick leave for COVID-19 related reasons. This law went into effect Oct. 1, 2020, and will remain in effect until Dec. 31, 2020.


The mosaic of paid leave laws in response to the coronavirus has created another layer of complexity as employers develop and administer paid leave policies.

Documentation, new labor law postings and other aspects of employment law continue to be impacted by COVID-19.

While many of the paid leave laws associated with the coronavirus are set to expire at the end of the year, that could change as the nation continues to grapple with the pandemic. Employers would be wise to evaluate the specific laws in the jurisdictions where they have locations to remain compliant.

This Employment Law News blog is intended for market awareness only, it is not to be used for legal advice or counsel.

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