skip to Main Content

Sick Leave Deadline: Ignorance is No Excuse

Lawsuit Prevention for Employers

With slightly over a month remaining before the July 1, 2015 paid sick leave deadline, many employers mistakenly believe that they are in compliance with the new law, a mistake that could cost them a fortune.

In summary, this is the situation:

  • You must provide full-time employees with slightly over 8 days sick leave a year
  • Unlimited carry-over of unused leave to subsequent years
  • Part time employees get pro-rated sick leave

BUT, there are exceptions that can help you:

  • A pre-existing policy (pre July 1) limits sick days to 3 and carry-over to 6 days
  • Carry-over can be completely avoided if 3 days are “front-loaded”

Why are people confused?

This is due in part to the battalions of seminar providers, who are apparently better suited
to the presentation of hot coffee and doughnuts than complex legal issues, such as the substantive
requirements of the new paid sick leave law.

To illustrate, one client recently stated that she was informed at a seminar, sponsored by an association of human resources professionals no less, that the firm’s Paid Time Off policy exceeded the requirements of the new law by providing for five days per year of paid benefits, and therefore did not require revision prior to July 1. As I explained, this information was badly mistaken, for the following reasons.

The details:
These exceptions are available only if the employer’s pre-existing policy allows benefits for the same purposes and under the same conditions specified in the new statute. If this condition is not satisfied, the exceptions have no application, and the employer will be obligated to provide the maximum benefits under the law, i.e., eight-plus days of paid benefits with unlimited carry-over.

Because the new law establishes many unprecedented “purposes” and “conditions,” it is highly unlikely that an employer’s pre-existing policy provides for them, unless it has been revised for the specific purpose of complying with the new law.

Employers have approximately 45 days to get a compliant, pre-existing policy in place, or face the very expensive consequences. This amounts to the difference between three paid days per employee per year (allowed by the referenced exception), as opposed to eight plus days per employee per year otherwise required by the statute. Additionally, employers will face the administrative nightmare of tracking and recording the carry-over of benefits.

Obviously, it is highly advisable to have such a policy carefully reviewed for legal compliance to be certain that the terms upon which the statute’s exceptions are premised have been satisfied.

We would be happy to help you take advantage of these exceptions.


Jay G. Putnam is a Petaluma labor lawyer who has specialized in representing California employers for over three decades. His practice is devoted to preventing lawsuits against his clients, without sacrificing workplace authority or management prerogatives.

While no one can guarantee a future free of lawsuits, Putnam has compiled a remarkable record of success: Not one employer-client has been sued in 36 years with his system of precautions in place.

For those clients who have arrived with pending lawsuits, Putnam has established an excellent track record of success as well. 

You are invited to visit Mr. Putnam’s website, where you will find in-depth discussion of the most common mistakes made by California employers, and how to avoid them.

Back To Top