What employers need to know about notifying employees

Employers are scrambling to comply with the requirements of the new California sick leave law, the Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act of 2014.

The law, which covers all types of employees, including interns, part-time and seasonal workers, says that employees who work in California for 30 or more days within a year from the beginning of employment are entitled to at least one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked.

“This law applies to employers of all sizes, from those that employ a few individuals who work from their homes to companies that have a workforce that includes thousands of employees,” says Olivia Goodkin, a Labor and Employment Partner at Greenberg Glusker. “It also requires employers to notify employees of their rights.”

Smart Business spoke with Goodkin about what employers need to know about their notification obligations under this new law.

What are the posting and notice requirements employers must follow?

As of Jan. 1, 2015, employers were required to post information about the Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act in a conspicuous location at the workplace and provide individual notices to both new and existing employees regarding the new sick leave policies. Although notice requirements took effect on Jan. 1, 2015, employers may delay changing their actual sick leave policies until July 1, 2015.

There has been some confusion about the notice requirement. California law, specifically the Wage Theft Protection Act, requires employers to distribute written notices to new nonexempt employees with information regarding wages, workers’ compensation coverage and now compliance with the new sick leave law.

Most employers use the approved notice that is posted on the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) website for these purposes — the DLSE, in addition to providing the notice, is also charged with interpreting and enforcing the new sick leave law.
The notice must be completed and provided to all nonexempt employees hired on or after Jan. 1, 2015, at their time of hire. But it is never too late to provide the notice if you have not done so already.

Under the new law, what must happen if an employer changes its sick leave policy?

According to the DLSE’s FAQs section of its website, the notice must be given to all nonexempt employees both at the time of hire and also at the time any information on the notice changes. For example, if an employer changed its sick leave policy on Jan. 1, 2015, then information about the change needed to be given to existing employees at that time.

The notice is not strictly required. The new information, however, must be communicated in a separate written document containing the required information. Thus, if you have distributed a new handbook or sick leave policy to employees — hopefully with an acknowledgment form for the employee to sign — then you can bypass use of the notice for existing nonexempt employees.

Employers that wait until July 1, 2015, to change their sick leave policies may wait until that time to provide either the notice or another written document to their existing employees, notifying them of the change.

The FAQs also state, somewhat confusingly, that even if an employer’s existing sick leave policy complies with the new law and no changes are made, the notice must be distributed to existing employees containing information about the sick leave law. Although the statute only requires notices to be given to nonexempt employees, it’s recommended that for any change in policy, written notification is distributed to all affected employees.

What questions do employers still have regarding the new law?

While some questions have now been answered by the DLSE, other questions remain. One common question, how employers should determine sick leave entitlement for part-time employees, has been answered. If, for example, a part-time employee is provided three sick days, the three days are considered 24 hours, the minimum required under the law. If the part-time employee regularly works five-hour days, and one sick day is considered five hours, the employee will therefore have 19 hours remaining. ●

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