Federal and State Law on Paid Sick Leave and COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates
New employment laws went into effect in California this year, in part inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some regulations are in response to federal mandates, and others are separate state laws drafted during the 2021 legislative session. How can California employers ensure they are compliant with these new laws? Are all California employers subject to vaccine mandates and paid sick leave requirements?What Has Changed?
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, passed in 2020, provided federal tax credits to employers offering paid sick leave to employees through the end of September 2021. Employers are eligible for the tax credit if they have fewer than 500 employees. In addition, California Senate Bill 95 was signed into law earlier this year. The new law required employers with more than 25 employees to provide emergency paid sick leave to employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This emergency leave also expired in September of 2021.
In San Mateo County, county employees are permitted to use COVID-19 Emergency Sick leave if unable to work in person or telework if they are required to self-quarantine due to possible exposure or confirmed exposure to COVID-19. They are also eligible for paid leave if caring for a loved one or child, are experiencing flu-like symptoms themselves or are recovering from obtaining the COVID-19 vaccine. The Emergency Sick Leave expires at the end of the year, on December 31, 2021. Each employee is eligible for up to 80 hours or eight days total of Emergency Sick Leave. Unused leave cannot be cashed out or rolled over into the next calendar year, but employees who previously took unpaid sick leave for a COVID-19 related reason are able to retroactively apply for benefits.What About Mandated Vaccination Requirements for Employees?
While emergency paid sick leave has not been extended on the federal or state level, President Biden’s executive order required all private employers in the U.S. with more than 100 employees to mandate COVID-19 vaccination. Employees refusing vaccination were required to submit to weekly testing for the virus in the interim. Now, the Biden Administration has suspended enforcement of vaccination requirements on private businesses as the matter is pursued in litigation.
OSHA is responsible for enforcing employer vaccine compliance with the new rule. However, a stay from the U.S. Court Appeals for the Fifth Circuit prevents OSHA from taking further action in implementing the rule or issuing temporary guidance in the interim. In addition, California has taken additional action to ensure vaccine compliance among healthcare workers, teachers, and school staff. Healthcare workers were mandated to obtain full vaccination by September 30, 2021. Workers were only exempt from vaccination by indicating that their closely held religious beliefs precluded them from vaccination, or that a pre-existing medical condition prevented them from obtaining the COVID-19 vaccination. In the meantime, employers with more than 100 employees are encouraged to begin steps to implement vaccine compliance with their employees.Contact San Jose Employer Lawyers at SAC Attorneys, LLP
For nearly two years, California employers have come to expect the unexpected as we all navigate a new landscape, thanks to COVID-19. There is conflicting guidance and requirements circulating between local, state and federal authorities on what employers are required to do to be compliant. Our lawyers at SAC Attorneys, LLP are dedicated to serving our clients throughout Silicon Valley with all possible needs including updating employers about ongoing developments. If you have specific questions about how the federal vaccine mandate or sick leave requirements will affect your business, contact us today to schedule a consultation.