California Legislature Passes New Covid Sick Leave Law; Governor Newsom Ends Indoor Mask Mandate for the Vaccinated

On Monday, February 7, 2022, the California Legislature passed a new law that will entitle many California workers to two weeks of paid COVID-19-related sick leave. Once signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, the law will apply to employers with 26 or more employees. Governor Newsom is expected to sign the law into effect within days.

 The Omicron surge compelled the state to take action, with dramatic numbers of workers testing positive – or assisting family members who tested positive – over recent weeks. The new enactment will operate much like the initial COVID-19 sick leave requirements, which expired in September of 2021. Once enacted, this expansion of California sick leave will be retroactive to January 1, 2022 and is set to expire on September 30, 2022. 

The new requirements will provide workers (at businesses with at least 26 employees) with two weeks of paid sick leave to recover from COVID-19, to provide care to a family member with COVID-19, or to deal with COVID-19 related childcare challenges. The law will also allow for workers to take a limited amount of paid leave to get a COVID-19 vaccine as well as to recover from the negative effects of vaccination, as many people experience moderate to severe side effects in days following vaccination. For employees who test positive, the new law will allow employers to insist that employees show proof of infection after exhausting one week of covered leave. 

While the expanded sick leave requirements have caught the most attention, yesterday’s legislation would also provide tax-related benefits for California businesses, and new funding for COVID-19-related infrastructure, including expansion to testing capacity.

The Legislature passed the proposal in conjunction with several other bills that provide companies with relief from unrelated tax limits the state placed on businesses in the early stages of the pandemic and give Newsom an additional $1.9 billion in state budget funds to address testing, vaccinations, hospital surges and other COVID-19 emergency needs.

Additionally, Governor Newsom tweeted an announcement on February 7th that California’s indoor mask mandate – in place since June of 2020 – will conclude next week. “CA’s [COVID-19] case rate has decreased by 65% since our Omicron peak. Our hospitalizations have stabilized across the state. Our statewide indoor mask requirement will expire on 2/15. Unvaccinated people will still need to wear masks indoors,” the governor wrote. However, local and county governments may persist with local masking requirements. Los Angeles County has already indicated its intent to persist with indoor masking requirements.

If you have any questions or need counseling on COVID-19 or other employment law challenges, Dunn DeSantis Walt & Kendrick, LLP can provide guidance to your business.

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