OSHA COVID-19 Pay Requirements in California

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 What Are California COVID-19 Pay Requirements?

The state COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (SPSL) law, which requires employers with 26 or more employees to provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave to employees who cannot work or telework due to COVID-19 reasons, expired on December 31, 2022. There currently is no indication that it will be extended further.

The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), a mandatory paid sick leave law that required employers with fewer than 26 employees to provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave to employees who cannot work or telework due to COVID-19 reasons, also expired on December 31, 2020, unless employers voluntarily continued to provide the leave and claim a tax credit.

The local COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave ordinances in the Cities of Oakland, Long Beach, Los Angeles, and the County of Los Angeles, which provide additional paid sick leave to employees who work in those jurisdictions, expired two weeks after the COVID-19 local emergency expired. The City of Los Angeles announced it would lift its state of emergency on February 1, 2023, which means the City of Los Angeles’ supplemental paid sick leave expired on February 15, 2023.

The San Francisco Public Health Emergency Leave Ordinance (PHELO), which provides family and medical leave for employees of employers with 100 or more employees worldwide related to public health emergencies, including COVID-19, remains in effect until the public health emergency is declared over by the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

The minimum wage in California increased to $15.50 per hour for all employers, regardless of the number of employees, on January 1, 2023, according to the California Department of Industrial Relations. This will affect the minimum salary for the administrative, executive, and non-exempt employees, as well as the rate of pay for the paid sick leave laws.

Please note that these laws are subject to change and may vary depending on the specific circumstances of your case. If you need legal advice, please consult a qualified California attorney.

Who Qualifies for COVID Pay in California?

The employees who qualified for COVID pay in California were those who worked for employers with 26 or more employees and who could not work or telework due to one of the following reasons:

  • Caring for themselves: They were subject to a quarantine or isolation period related to COVID-19, were advised by a healthcare provider to quarantine due to COVID-19, or were experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
  • Caring for a family member: They were caring for a family member who was:
    • Subject to a quarantine or isolation period related to COVID-19;
    • Advised by a healthcare provider to quarantine due to COVID-19; or
    • Caring for a child whose school or place of care was closed or unavailable due to COVID-19 on the premises.
  • Vaccine-related: They were attending a vaccine appointment or could not work or telework due to vaccine-related side effects.

These employees were entitled to up to 80 hours of COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave from January 1, 2022, to December 31, 2022, at the highest of their regular rate, the state minimum wage, or the local minimum wage, up to $511 per day and $5,110 in total. They could request this leave orally or in writing from their employer.

What Is OSHA and How Does It Affect COVID-19 Pay Requirements in California?

OSHA stands for Occupational Safety and Health Administration. This is a regulatory agency of the United States Department of Labor that sets and enforces standards and provides training, outreach, education, and assistance to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for workers.

OSHA affected COVID-19 pay requirements in California by issuing guidance and regulations to protect workers from the risk of COVID-19 at work and to require employers to provide paid sick leave to employees who are excluded from work due to COVID-19 reasons.

Some of the COVID-19 pay requirements in California that were influenced by OSHA are:

  • The 2021 COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave law required employers with 26 or more employees to provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave to employees who could not work or telework due to COVID-19 reasons, such as getting vaccinated, isolating, caring for a family member, or experiencing symptoms.
    • The law was in effect from January 1, 2022 to December 31, 2022 and was based on the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which OSHA endorsed and enforced.
  • The COVID-19 Prevention non-emergency regulations require employers to exclude employees from the workplace for at least five days if they test positive for COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, previous infection, or lack of symptoms, and to maintain their pay and benefits while they are excluded.
    • The regulations are in effect until February 3, 2025, and are consistent with the OSHA guidance on mitigating and preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.
  • The Cal/OSHA Interim Guidance on COVID-19 for Health Care Facilities: Severe Respirator Supply Shortages, which allowed certain strategies to extend supplies of respirators during severe shortages, such as decontamination of disposable respirators. The guidance was removed in September 2023, as the supply and availability of NIOSH-approved respirators, including N95s, increased significantly.
    • The guidance was based on the OSHA enforcement discretion for the use of respirators in health care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While OSHA is a federal entity, its guidelines and complaint mechanisms have influenced California’s approach to COVID-19 workplace safety and, indirectly, pay requirements. An OSHA complaint can be lodged if an employee feels their workplace is unsafe regarding COVID-19 protections. If the complaint is valid and the risk is deemed unnecessary or avoidable, it might lead to workplace adjustments and, in some scenarios, compensation for affected employees.

What if a California COVID-19 Pay Requirement Was Violated? Are There Any Legal Remedies Available for Me?

Absolutely. In the case of violations related to COVID-19 pay requirements, legal avenues are available. This could range from lodging formal complaints with relevant state agencies to pursuing civil litigation if an amicable solution isn’t reached. It’s essential to keep records of all communications, pay stubs, and any other relevant documentation to support your case.

Additionally, joining forces with fellow employees who’ve faced similar violations can strengthen your case, providing a collective voice against the employer’s non-compliance. In some situations, a class action lawsuit might be an appropriate recourse if multiple employees are affected by the same violation. Regardless of the avenue pursued, prompt action is necessary.

There are often time constraints, known as statutes of limitations, which dictate how long after an incident you can seek legal remedies. Staying informed and acting decisively will maximize your chances of obtaining the justice and compensation you deserve.

Should I Hire a Lawyer?

If you believe your rights concerning California’s COVID-19 pay requirements have been violated, it’s wise to consult with a professional. A California workers’ compensation lawyer can provide the guidance you need. They’ll review your case, inform you of your rights, and represent your interests, ensuring you get the compensation you’re entitled to.

Don’t go through these issues alone. LegalMatch is here to help. At LegalMatch, we can connect you with a seasoned California workers’ compensation lawyer who’s perfectly suited to your needs.

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