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San Francisco’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance To Take Effect On February 5, 2007

On February 5, 2007, San Francisco’s sweeping Paid Sick Leave Ordinance (“PSL”) will take effect. The PSL Ordinance (Chapter 12W) was approved by 60% of San Francisco voters in the November election. San Francisco employers who do not comply with the PSL Ordinance will face stiff penalties and possible civil lawsuits with attorneys’ fees recoverable.

All employers in San Francisco will be required to provide paid sick leave to all full-time, part-time and even temporary employees who work in San Francisco. Under the PSL Ordinance, employees accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked (about 9 days per year for a full-time, non-exempt employee). Those employed as of February 5, 2007 will begin accruing paid sick leave as of that date. Those employed after February 5, 2007 will begin accruing paid sick leave 90 days into their employment. Employers may cap maximum accruals at 40 hours if they employ fewer than 10 employees and at 72 hours if they employ 10 or more employees. Unlike vacation benefits, paid sick leave does not need to be paid out when employees leave their employers.

Beginning February 5, 2007, employers must post the City’s official notice of the PSL Ordinance in a conspicuous location in English, Spanish, Chinese and any other languages spoken by at least 5% of an employer’s workforce in San Francisco. Under the PSL Ordinance, paid sick leave may be used to care for family members (“kin care”), which is more broadly defined than California’s Labor Code and includes relatives such as siblings and grandparents. In addition, employees who do not have a spouse or registered domestic partner may once a year designate a person for whom the employee may use paid sick leave. Further, unlike current California law, an employee may use the entire amount of their sick leave for kin care.

The PSL Ordinance also includes some other notable requirements. For example, employers are now required to keep records of hours worked and sick leave for a period of four years. Failure to keep these records creates a presumption of a violation of the PSL Ordinance. Also, retaliation for exercise of rights under the PSL Ordinance is prohibited. Violations of the ordinance ranges from administrative fines (for unlawfully withheld paid sick leave, three times the amount owed or $250, whichever is greater, or $50 per day per employee affected for all other violations) to civil action with attorneys’ fees available. Employers should carefully review their policies and procedures to ensure compliance.