Bill passes granting California workers paid sick days

The California legislature has passed a bill that would require employers to provide workers with paid sick leave. Gov. Jerry Brown has said he will sign it into law.
The California legislature has passed a bill that would require employers to provide workers with paid sick leave. Gov. Jerry Brown has said he will sign it into law. William Brawley/Flickr Creative Commons

The state Legislature has approved a bill that would require nearly every employer in California to give its workers at least three paid sick days per year, paving the way for Gov. Jerry Brown to sign into law the nation’s second statewide mandate requiring employer-provided sick leave.

The bill, AB 1522, would require employers to allow workers to accrue at least one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, for up to six six days per year. However, employers could limit the number of days their workers use to three per year.

The law would apply to large companies like Wal-Mart and fast food chains that don’t provide sick leave to many workers, but also to small businesses.

According to supporters, about 40 percent of California’s workers — or roughly 7 million mostly low-income people — do not receive paid sick leave.

AB 1522 would grant leave to most of those workers, but not to about 400,000 home health care workers. They were stripped from the bill at the last minute as a result of negotiations between its author, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), and Gov. Brown. That amendment cost the bill the support of some Democrats.

But shortly before the bill cleared its final legislative hurdle in the early hours of Saturday morning, former organized labor leader Gonzalez said the first bill she plans to introduce during the Legislature's next term will seek to extend sick leave to those workers who were left out.

She called the final bill "imperfect," but said it will ensure that the 6.5 million workers it does cover can take time off to care for themselves or a sick loved one without worrying about losing pay or being fired.

The bill was opposed by business groups and Republican lawmakers, but passed both houses of the Legislature with easy majorities. It now goes to Gov. Brown, whose office has said he’ll sign it into law. If he does, it will take effect in July 2015.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that, if signed into law, AB 1522 would be the nation's first statewide mandate requiring employer provided-sick leave. In fact, it would be the second, after Connecticut. We regret the error.

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