Updated Feb. 9
On Christmas, Mayra Castaneda took a COVID-19 test at her job as an ultrasound tech at St. Francis Medical Center in Los Angeles. Three days later, she got a call that it had come back positive and that she needed to stay home. It was the end of the year and Castaneda was out of paid time off.
After five days, her hospital asked her to come back to work under updated guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which shortened the quarantine period for health care workers with mild symptoms.
“I didn't even question pushing back” because she had no banked PTO, Castaneda said.
Her paycheck took a hit, but Castaneda will be able to get reimbursed for some of those unpaid sick days under a bill state lawmakers sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom Monday. The governor signed it Wednesday morning, saying it will “keep employees, keep patrons, keep employers safe and healthy and businesses open.”
The bill requires employers with more than 25 workers to provide up to 80 hours of paid sick time for employees who test positive for the virus, need to quarantine after exposure, or who need to care for a sick family member or child whose school is closed due to an outbreak. Workers can also take up to 24 working hours after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot.
Part-time workers are also eligible for some sick leave. After the first 40 hours of sick leave, employers can request proof of a positive test before approving additional time.
“None of us want to go into a workplace where workers are sick or take care of their children who may be sick,” said Senate Budget Committee Chair Nancy Skinner (D–Berkeley). “This will help ensure that those employees that are sick can take the paid sick leave that they need so that all of us are protected.”
Some Republicans said the measure places a burden on already struggling businesses and argued that the state should offset the additional paid leave costs for employers through tax relief.
The legislation is similar to a previous law that required supplemental pandemic sick leave. That law expired last September. This version expires September 30, 2022 but is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2022.
According to the California Chamber of Commerce, business interests were able to negotiate some changes to prevent abuse, such as allowing employers to request proof of a positive test and capping paid leave at 40 hours unless a worker for their family member tests positive.
“While we understand this additional leave will be shouldered by many employers, the proposal is more limited in scope and duration than what was originally discussed,” said CalChamber president and CEO Jennifer Berrera.
Legislative leaders and the governor agreed to revive the sick leave in January, as the omicron variant swept across the state and country.
“It's going to be a big help for those of us who had to take days off knowing that we were going to have a short check,” Castaneda said. “Nowadays, unfortunately even health care workers are living paycheck to paycheck because of the cost of living.”
Other items approved by lawmakers Monday include:
- $1.9 billion in additional funds for COVID-19 testing, vaccinations and support hospitals dealing with a surge in patients. Newsom requested the funds last month.
- Restored tax deductions for businesses who suffered operating losses and other tax breaks, which were initially limited in 2020 when the state suffered a budget shortfall due to the pandemic.
- An additional $150 million in grants for small businesses who were waitlisted during previous rounds of relief funding.
- $27.5 million for Afghan refugee resettlements.
CapRadio provides a trusted source of news because of you. As a nonprofit organization, donations from people like you sustain the journalism that allows us to discover stories that are important to our audience. If you believe in what we do and support our mission, please donate today.