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Temporary Employees from 4 California Firms Awarded $3.8M

April 29, 2022 | Employment Law

Four California business failed to inform nearly 3,500 temporary workers of the availability of COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave. $3.8 million in fines will be paid to those workers.

A press release by Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower reads, “Workers should not have to worry about financial hardship if they need to take care of themselves or a family member who is COVID positive.  That’s what supplemental paid sick leave is for — it keeps sick workers at home and protects against the spread of COVID-19.”

In April 2020, a temporary law entitling full-time workers to 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave went into effect. It was repeatedly extended eventually expiring in September 2021 while advocates and law makers continued writing and wrangling. In February of 2022, just as the Omicron variant was surging, that policy was voted into law.

After coronavirus outbreaks at a poultry processing facility, the labor commissioners’ office launched an investigation.  Audited payroll records showed the facility hired workers to fill vacant spots without informing them of the paid leave.  By August 2020 the facility closed after eight deaths and over 13% of workers testing positive for COVID-19.

The investigation uncovered staffing firms were also negligent in advising the temporary employees of the availability of supplemental paid leave for COVID-19 illness.

“Employers who contract with staffing agencies have a joint responsibility to protect the health of their workers,” García-Brower said. “Employers are obligated to ensure that employees are made aware of sick leave benefits intended to protect workers, their families and the public from the spread of COVID-19.”

The 2022 COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Law covers the partially retroactive period of January 1, 2022 through September 30, 2022.  A covered employee who is considered full-time or who worked or was scheduled to work an average of at least 40 hours per week in the two weeks before the leave is taken is entitled to up to 80 hours of leave, comprised of 40 hours of COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave for any of the reasons stated above in FAQ 4 and an additional 40 hours if the covered employee or qualifying family member tests positive for COVID-19. The two weeks do not need to be consecutive, and exhaustion of one is not required before using another. For example, a full-time covered employee can use 10 hours from the first bank to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot and recover from symptoms, 40 hours from the second bank to care for a family member that tested positive for COVID-19, and then 30 hours from the first bank to care for a child whose daycare had closed due to COVID-19 on the premises.