Revisiting COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave: Does your business have a plan in place?


August 26, 2021

A supermarket chain with stores in California was recently fined almost a half million dollars by the Labor Commissioner’s office for failing to provide or delaying COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave to its employees.  The Labor Commissioner’s investigation revealed numerous violations. Some grocery store employees were forced to work while sick until they received test results, some employees were told to apply for unemployment or disability to cover their isolation time, some were denied isolation time even if a family member tested positive and others were not paid for their time off due to COVID-19.

As a refresher, the 2021 COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave (SPSL) became effective March 29, 2021, made retroactive to January 1, 2021, and currently extends to September 30, 2021.  It requires employers with 26 or more employees to provide up to 2 weeks of supplemental sick leave if an employee is affected by COVID-19.  The covered employee must be unable to work or telework due to any one of the following reasons:

  • Caring for Yourself:  The covered employee is subject to a quarantine or isolation period related to COVID-19, or has been advised by a healthcare provider to quarantine due to COVID-19, or is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
  • Caring for a Family Member: The covered employee is caring for a family member who is either subject to a quarantine or isolation period related to COVID-19 or has been advised by a healthcare provider to quarantine due to COVID-19, or the employee is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19 on the premises.  
  • Vaccine-Related: The covered employee is attending a vaccine appointment or cannot work or telework due to vaccine-related side effects.
According to the Labor Commissioner, “Supplemental paid sick leave is intended to protect workers from being forced to choose between their health and providing for their families. These violations expose workers, their families and [the grocery store]’s customers to unnecessary health risks.” She added that supplemental paid sick leave “is a tool to stop the spread of COVID-19. My office is working to ensure that workers who are impacted by COVID-19 have access to paid time to care for themselves or their relatives.”

This is a good reminder to employers to make sure your workplace has a plan in place for COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave, particularly if an employee becomes ill or is exposed to COVID-19.  You are required to have COVID-19 paid sick leave on your paycheck stubs.  Right now, we do not know if California will extend this sick leave beyond September 30, 2021.  If you have questions about paying COVID-19 paid sick leave, please contact McKague Rosasco LLP.
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