Update: COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave

Dear OCEA member,

On March 30, 2021, Orange County moved into the less restrictive orange tier under the state’s reopening framework, allowing more indoor business operations to open with modifications. Despite improvement in COVID-19 case rates, experts warn the risk remains. Hopefully, increasing access to COVID-19 vaccinations will further decrease new cases.

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 95 into law on March 19, 2021, which supports worker safety. SB 95 mandates most California employers to provide up to 80 hours of COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (SPSL) to eligible employees for one of seven qualifying reasons.

Qualifying Reasons
You may take COVID-19 SPSL if you are unable to work or telework due to any of the following:

  1. You are “subject to a quarantine or isolation period related to COVID-19” as defined by an order or guidelines from state and federal authorities, “or a local health officer who has jurisdiction over the workplace.”
  2. A health care provider has advised you to self-quarantine due to COVID-19–related concerns.
  3. You are “attending an appointment to receive” a COVID-19 vaccine.
  4. You are “experiencing symptoms related to a COVID-19 vaccine that prevent you from being able to work or telework.”
  5. You are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and are seeking a medical diagnosis.
  6. You are caring for a designated “family member…who is subject to an order or guidelines described” in qualifying reason (1), or who a health care provider has advised to self-quarantine, as described in qualifying reason (2).
  7. You are “caring for a child…whose school or place of care is closed or otherwise unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19 on the premises.”

SPSL is in Addition to Regular Paid Sick Leave
The 80 SPSL hours are in addition to the paid sick leave that your employer must provide and to which you are already entitled under Labor Code Section 246 (the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014).

Retroactive Use of SPSL to Jan. 1, 2021
SB 95 makes SPSL retroactive to Jan. 1, 2021. This means that employees can use SPSL for any absence since Jan. 1, 2021, that falls within a qualifying reason. For example, if you used paid vacation in March 2021 because you experienced symptoms following receipt of the COVID-19 vaccine, you could ask for and the employer must pay you SPSL for those days and replenish your vacation bank.

Prohibition on Forcing Employees to Use Other Leave First
Employers may not force covered employees to use any other form of paid or unpaid leave or time off, including company-provided sick leave, vacation, or paid time off (PTO), before using SPSL. Instead, SB 95 authorizes employees to choose the number of SPSL hours to use, and when, up to the number of SPSL hours for which the employees are eligible.

SB 95 Directly Impacts Your Workplace in the Following Ways:

  • If you contract or are exposed to COVID-19, SPSL allows you to self-isolate and/or quarantine without creating financial strain;
  • SPSL can be used to cover the leave needed to attend your COVID-19 vaccine appointment; and,
  • If you experience symptoms following receipt of the vaccine requiring leave, SPSL can be used to cover the absence.

The new law will remain in effect until Sept. 30, 2021, and is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2021. You can read the text of the bill here. Please contact your Labor Relations Representative, workplace Steward, or Association Board member should you have any questions or concerns.

SB 95, with its strong worker protections, passed with support from OCEA’s legislative allies offering a compelling example of the benefits of OCEA’s political program.

In Solidarity,

Charles Barfield
OCEA General Manager

Publication Date: April 12, 2021