California Requires Paid Sick Leave Starting Today

California employees will accrue sick time of at least one hour per every 30 hours worked. (Joe Raedle)

A California law requiring at least three paid sick days each year went into effect today and is expected to benefit more than 6 million workers in the state.

During the debate over AB1522 last year, the law's author, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), pointed to the cost of unproductive workers forced to work while sick, as well as the impact on families of workers in what are generally low-wage jobs. Opponents, led by the powerful California Chamber of Commerce, contended the new benefit would force strapped small businesses to raise prices, cut employee hours or possibly eliminate jobs.

Vicki Shabo, a vice president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, is hailing the new benefit. "The fact that the largest state in the country, the most populous state in the country has enacted a paid sick leave law will show, I'm sure, that this policy is good for workers, good for business and good for the economy," she said.

Employees who work in California for 30 or more days within a year of the start of their employment must now accrue sick time of at least one hour per every 30 hours worked. Employees can start using accrued time 90 days after hire. The rate of pay must be the same as the employee's regular salary.

Workers can use sick time for diagnosis, care or treatment of an existing health condition or preventive care for themselves or family members. Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking can also use sick time to obtain restraining orders, get counseling and engage in other activities to ensure the health, safety, or welfare of themselves or their children.

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If employees don't use all their sick days, they will roll over into the following year, but employers can still cap total time off at three days per year.