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Sonoma County Follow Suit and Enacts Emergency Paid Sick Leave Ordinance


Sonoma County enacted their own emergency paid sick leave ordinance on August 18th, 2020 in response to the current pandemic. Cities in the Bay-Area that have also enacted their own similar ordinances including, San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco. There are 10 cities and counties in California with their own ordinances, in addition to the existing state-wide emergency paid sick leave requirement for food sector workers.

Sonoma’s ordinance went into effect immediately and will remain in effect through the end of the year. However, if the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), is extended, then the county’s ordinance will do the same for the same amount of time.

Who is covered?

This ordinance applies to any employer with 500 or more employees based in the U.S. Covering those employees that are not currently included in the FFCRA. It also extends over to any employee that has worked for more than two hours in the unincorporated areas of the county. Employers must provide an individual’s independent contractor status in order to be exempt from coverage. The FFCRA does include a potential exception for health care providers, emergency responders and unionized workers, whereas this ordinance does not.

Employees can use the additional paid sick leave when they need to care for and individual that is one of the following in relation to the employee:

  • Immediate family member
  • Person who regularly resides in the same home as the employee
  • A similar person with whom the employee has a relationship that requires for the employee to care for them if quarantined
  • If the employee’s childcare or senior care provider is unavailable due to the current pandemic

Amount of Leave

Employees regularly scheduled to work 40 hours per week are entitled to a maximum of 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave (SPSL) and part-time employees regularly scheduled less than 40 hours a week are entitled to an amount of SPSL no greater than the employee’s average hours worked in a two-week period, over a six-month time span. Employers are not allowed to require that their employees use any other form of paid or un-paid leave (i.e., sick pay, paid time off, or vacation time) before the employee uses SPSL through any of the existing ordinances, whether it be the County’s or the State’s.

Covered uses

Employees can use SPSL when they are unable to work in person or remotely because:

  1. They have been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine
  2. They are experiencing COVID-19 like symptoms and are seeking medical diagnosis
  3. They are subject to quarantine by State, Federal or local orders
  4. They need to care for an individual as specified in the first section

How to request leave?

Employers are only allowed to take reasonable measures to confirm the eligibility of an employee for any SPSL. They may require an employee to identify the basis on which they are making their request but cannot require that they provide any documentation. An employee must provide a written request for SPSL. Payroll Systems assists employers with payroll reporting necessary to track these new, paid leave options created to assist during COVID-19.

Is there anything Payroll Systems can help you with as you accommodate rapid legislation changes? Reach out and talk to us about easy-to-scale solutions you need for your business.

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This article provides general information and shouldn’t be construed as legal or HR advice. Since employment laws may change over time and can vary by location and industry, please consult a lawyer or HR expert for advice specific to your business. You can also contact Payroll Systems to inquire about our HR support services.