Legislation that would ensure California workers receive at least three days of annual paid sick leave advanced through the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee on a party-line vote.
AB 1522 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D- San Diego) includes provisions that would:
- require an employer to provide an employee who works at least seven days in a calendar year with paid sick leave to be accrued at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked
- be available for use after the 90th day of employment
- allows sick days to be used to care for an ill relative or to take leave related to domestic violence or sexual assault
- exempt employees covered by collective bargaining
- allow unused sick leave to be carried over into the next year.
Assemblywoman Gonzalez argued that nearly 40% of the state’s workforce, or 6 million people, earn no sick leave benefits, forcing them to choose between coming to work while ill and exposing others or staying home and losing pay and possibly their job. She believes her legislation has a better chance of passing this year due to several changes made from prior versions introduced.
The California Restaurant Association (CRA) testified in opposition arguing the bill would add to the already growing number of costs and has the potential to eliminate jobs. The restaurant industry is different in the sense that an employee can switch shifts from week to week and make up any lost time they may have missed due to illness. As one of the largest part-time workforce industries, it would be very difficult for employers to afford and administer a paid leave benefit to so many part-time workers.
Specifically, unlike a traditional employer, where an employee can call in sick and it doesn’t affect the manpower needed for the day, a restaurant owner still needs the same amount of staffing. An employer would be forced to provide paid time off, plus pay for the employee to stay home, as well as the wages for the second employee that was called in to perform the job. This means paying double wages for the manpower of only one employee which would be devastating to low profit margin businesses.
Workplace health and safety is a top concern for the restaurant industry, however, this benefit discussion is most appropriate between the employer and the employee and is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach.
The bill now heads to the Assembly Judiciary Committee.