Employment Law Bulletin | February 5, 2021

Santa Rosa Revives COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave

As you may be aware, the Santa Rosa Temporary Paid Sick Leave Ordinance that previously required employers to provide COVID-related paid sick leave benefits expired on December 31, 2020.  In the face of the continued spread of the COVID-19 virus and the lack of any federally required paid sick leave*, Santa Rosa’s City Council took steps this week to revive the 2020 temporary paid sick leave requirements.

Extension of Temporary Benefits

Effective February 2, 2021, employers, regardless of size or sector, with employees who work at least two hours per week within Santa Rosa’s city limits are required to continue to provide up to two weeks of paid sick leave for employees who are unable to work for the following reasons:

    1. The employee is subject to quarantine or isolation by federal, state or local order due to COVID-19, or
    2.  The employee is advised by a health-care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19, or
    3. The employee experiences symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking medical diagnosis, or
    4. The employee is caring for an individual who is quarantined or isolated, or otherwise unable to receive care due to COVID-19, or
    5. The employee is caring for a minor child because a school or daycare is closed, or the child care provider is not available due to COVID-19.

Previously Provided Paid Leave: It’s important to note that the revised 2021 Ordinance does not reset or replenish an employee’s COVID-related paid sick leave bank.  Any COVID-related paid sick leave taken in 2020 for the above reasons that was in addition to state required paid sick leave may be deducted from the 2021 paid sick leave requirement.

Pay Amount: As under the prior ordinance, employees must be paid at their regular rate of pay up to $511 per day, not to exceed $5,110, for reasons 1, 2, and 3 above; and at two-thirds of their regular rate of pay up to $200 per day, not to exceed $2,000, for reasons 4 and 5 above.  The 2021 Ordinance continues to allow for the small employer’s exemption for reason 5 if the employer has less than 50 employees and meets certain criteria.

Notice: Written notice of the rights afforded by the 2021 Ordinance is required to be given to all current employees and to new employees within one week of the employee’s date of hire.  The City of Santa Rosa has created a flyer to assist employers with complying with this notice requirement, which can be found here: https://srcity.org/DocumentCenter/View/31340/Paid-Sick-Leave-Hours_English_Spanish_FINAL [1]

No Refusal or Retaliation: The Ordinance prohibits employers from refusing to provide the paid sick leave benefits to eligible employees and from engaging in retaliation against employees for requesting or taking paid sick leave. Employees who believe their rights have been violated may file an action in court and may seek to recover attorney’s fees if they prevail on their claim.

*The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) expired on December 31, 2020.  However, the federal government is allowing employers to voluntarily provide FFCRA benefits through March 31, 2021 and take advantage of the associated payroll tax credit.

Have questions or need help navigating the new 2021 Santa Rosa Ordinance?  Contact an SMT employment law attorney at info@www.smlaw.com [2].

Kari Brown [3]

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Spaulding McCullough & Tansil LLP
Employment Law Group

Jan Gabrielson Tansil [4]  | Lisa Ann Hilario [5] | Kari Brown [3]