Yesterday, San Mateo County Health Officer, Dr. Scott Morrow, issued a statement regarding the current state of COVID-19 in our county. In short, he stated that the virus continues to be remarkably transmissible, spreading like wildfire in indoor spaces, and that we must continue to wear masks, wash our hands and socially distance.

Dr. Morrow also pointed out that the majority of people within our county who are infected are front line workers, who live in crowded multi-generational conditions, and are the primary breadwinners for their family. Dr. Morrow reminded us that “to stem the spread of this very transmissible virus, people who are infected need to be separated from others (isolation and quarantine), not go out in public, and not go to work while they are infectious.” However, these front-line workers are returning to work for fear of losing their jobs and not being able to feed their families. 

Both California and federal law provide for paid sick leave for these employees during this time. Under California’s Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act of 2014 (AB 1522) , each employee must receive at least 24 hours of paid sick leave. Under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act , passed in March of this year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all employers with fewer than 500 workers (which covers over 99% of employers in the U.S.) are required to provide their employees with up to two weeks (80 hours, or a part-time employee’s two-week equivalent) of paid sick leave, to be taken for COVID-19 related reasons. Tax credits may be available to employers who provide FFCRA leave.

Employers are required to post information to notify their employees of these rights. The employer may not retaliate against any employee who takes paid sick leave under California or federal law. Employers who do not comply with these sick leave laws may face liability and considerable fines. In addition, employers are still encouraged to maximize the number of workers who work from home.

Dr. Morrow opines that if employers engage in these basic transmission control measures, having employees work from home when at all possible, and complying with California and federal paid sick leave laws, we will need to rely less on business sector closures and restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19.

If you have any questions about how to implement or enforce these paid sick leave provisions, or any other questions about employment laws, please contact a member of our employment law team:  Amanda L. Riddle , Steven M. Berki , Sumble Manzoor , or Max J. Neiman .