On February 7, 2022, there were two big COVID-19-related news developments in the Golden State: First, Gov. Newsom announced that California’s mask mandates would expire on February 15th. Second, the legislature voted to enact Assembly Bill 84 (“AB 84”), a law that would re-enact California’s 2020 supplemental COVID-19 leave law, and provide up to 80 hours of supplemental sick leave for reasons related to COVID-19. AB 84 now heads to Gov. Newsom, who is anticipated to sign it into law.
As previously reported (here), California originally enacted a supplemental COVID-19 sick leave law back in September 2020 to cover employers not subject to the leave provisions of the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Although the leave statute initially expired in December 2020, the legislature re-enacted the supplemental COVID-19 sick leave law in March 2021, with retroactive effect back to January 2021. Yet, that too expired in September of last year and, since then, only local COVID-19 leave laws have been in place. Until now.
If signed into law, AB 84 will provide eligible employees who work for employers with at least 25 employees with supplemental paid sick leave to use when they are unable to work or telework because:
- They are subject a quarantine or isolation period related to COVID-19 as defined by an order or guidance of the California Department of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or a local public health officer;
- They have been advised by a health care provider to isolate or quarantine;
- They are attending an appointment for themselves or a family member to receive a vaccine or a vaccine booster;
- They are experiencing symptoms, or caring for a family member experiencing symptoms, related to a COVID-19 vaccine or booster;
- They are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;
- They are caring for a family member who is subject to a quarantine or isolation period; or
- They are caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19 on the premises.
Importantly, where leave is related to a vaccination or booster, employers are permitted to limit the total COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave to three days or 24 hours per dose, unless the employee provides verification from a health care provider that the employee or their family member is continuing to experience symptoms.
Employees who are considered “full-time” or who work at least 40 hours per week will be entitled to at least 40 hours of paid sick leave. If they or a family member test positive for COVID-19, however, the employee may be entitled to up to an additional 40 hours of paid supplemental sick leave, subject to certain conditions. Notably, AB 84 permits employers to require that employees submit documentation of COVID-19 testing; employers can refuse to provide more than 40 hours of paid leave to employees who refuse to furnish testing results.
As in prior iterations of the supplemental leave law, employers will be required to include COVID-19 sick leave balance information on pay stubs—or otherwise provide the information concurrently with the payment of wages. In addition, AB 84 requires employers to provide information regarding how much COVID-19 paid sick leave the employee has used.
If approved by Gov. Newsom, AB 84 would apply retroactively back to January 1, 2022. Therefore, employers should monitor this law closely.