Compliance Snapshot:

  • Employers with at least one employee working in San Francisco (SF) must provide paid sick leave under the San Francisco Paid Sick Leave Ordinance (PSLO);
  • Employees accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked;
  • Covered employees may also use SF PSLO for certain COVID-19 qualifying reasons;
  • Employers may request verification of a COVID-19 qualifying reason if an employee has been absent for at least 5 consecutive days;
  • Employers have a notice posting requirement.

On February 22, 2022, the SF Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE) issued a temporary update to its guidance on the SF PSLO as it relates to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The new guidance does not include an expiration date and presumably the OLSE will announce if and when this temporary guidance expires. This article provides a brief overview of city’s PSLO requirements and highlights what employers need to know about the new temporary guidance for 2022.

Brief Overview

SF PSLO requires employers to provide paid sick leave to all employees (including temporary and part-time employees) who perform work in San Francisco. Employees earn 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.

Covered Employers

SF PSLO applies to all employers that have one or more employees performing work in SF, regardless of where the employer is located.

Covered Employees

SF PSLO applies to all employees who work at least 56 hours during a calendar year in SF, whether full-time, part-time, or temporary. The OLSE guidance clarifies that employees are covered by the law unless there has been a separation of employment (e.g., termination, layoff, resignation or retirement) and clarifies the following:

  • Employers are not required to pay employees for accrued unused paid sick leave upon the employee’s separation from employment. However, if an employer is using a paid time off (PTO) or vacation policy to comply with the Ordinance, California law requires the payout of PTO or vacation upon separation of an employee. (FAQ #34 in OLSE’s Frequently Asked Questions).
  • If there is a separation from employment and an employee is later rehired by the employer within 1 year, previously accrued and unused paid sick leave must be reinstated, and the employee is entitled to use the previously accrued and unused paid sick leave and to accrue additional paid sick leave upon rehiring. (Administrative Code Section 12W.3(g)).

Qualifying Reasons

Employees may use paid sick leave when they or a family member are ill, injured, or for the purposes of receiving medical care (including preventative care), treatment, diagnosis or other medical reason. In addition, the temporary OLSE guidance states that employers covered by the Ordinance must allow employees to use SF PSLO for the following COVID-19 qualifying reasons:

  • The employee takes time off from work because public health officials or healthcare providers require or recommend an employee isolate or quarantine to prevent the spread of disease;
  • The employee takes time off work for a COVID-19 vaccination appointment or vaccination side effects;
  • The employee takes time off work because the employee’s business or a work location temporarily ceases operations in response to a public health or other public official’s recommendation;
  • The employee takes time off work because the employee needs to provide care for a family member to attend a COVID-19 vaccination appointment, who is experiencing vaccination side effects, or who is not sick but who public health officials or healthcare providers have required or recommended isolate or quarantine;
  • The employee takes time off work because the employee needs to provide care for a family member whose school, childcare provider, senior care provider, or work temporarily ceases operations in response to a public health or other public official’s recommendation.

Employer Notice Requirements

Employers are required to display a SF PSLO leave poster in a location where employees can easily read it. The notice must be posted in English, Spanish, Chinese, and any other language spoken by at least 5% of employees at that workplace or job site. OLSE provides these notices on its webpage.

Employer Recordkeeping Requirements

Employers must keep records of PSLO leave accrual and use for 4 years and allow OLSE access to those records upon request. Employers must retain records documenting hours worked by employees and paid sick leave taken by employees.

Employer Verification of Paid Sick Leave

The OLSE has temporarily amended its rules as it relates to what the OLSE considers reasonable verification for an SF PSLO absence by extending the usual 3 consecutive day limitation to 5 consecutive days for the duration of the public health emergency. This means that under the temporarily amended guidance, policies or practices that require a doctor’s note or other documentation for the use of SF PSLO more than 5 consecutive workdays is to be deemed presumptively reasonable, provided an employee is using paid sick leave for a COVID-19 related reason and is not under a doctor’s care, the employer shall accept the employee’s attestation of the need for paid sick leave pursuant to current CDC guidelines and OLSE Rule 2.4.

This rule amendment is temporary, effective only for the duration of the above-referenced Local Health Emergency. Rule 2.3 will revert automatically to the version in effect prior to this guidance upon expiration of the Local Health Emergency, unless OLSE revokes it sooner.

Employer Considerations

Employers with employees working in San Francisco are encouraged to review their existing SF PSLO policies in light of the OLSE’s updated temporary guidance.

Additional Resources

Disclaimer: This content is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, medical or tax advice. It provides general information and is not intended to encompass all compliance and legal obligations that may be applicable. This information and any questions as to your specific circumstances should be reviewed with your respective legal counsel and/or tax advisor as we do not provide legal or tax advice. Please note that this information may be subject to change based on legislative changes. © 2022 Sequoia Benefits & Insurance Services, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Lizet Ramirez — Lizet is a Client Compliance Manager for Sequoia One, where she works with our clients to optimize and streamline benefits compliance. In her free time, Lizet enjoys live music, travel, hiking and spa days.