Voters in San Francisco approved a ballot measure mandating paid sick leave for all employees who work within the geographical boundaries of the city.  The measure requires employers in San Francisco to provide 1 hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked.  Employees working for small employers (fewer than 10 employees) are allowed to accrue up to 40 hours of paid sick leave.  Part-time and temporary employees count towards the 10-employee figure.  Employees of larger employers can accrue up to 72 hours.  Employees may take paid sick leave for their own illness or to provide care for a sick child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, spouse, domestic partner, or "designated person."  The requirements of the ordinance do not apply to employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement expressly waiving the requirements in clear and unambiguous terms.

For employees currently working for an employer on or before the operative date of the ordinance, paid sick leave begins to accrue as of February 6, 2007.  For employees hired after February 6, 2007, paid sick leave begins to accrue 90 days after the commencement of their employment.  If an employer has a paid time off policy that already provides employees with an amount of paid leave that meets the requirements of the ordinance, the employer is not required to provide additional sick leave.  An employer is also not required to provide financial reimbursement to an employee upon the employee’s separation from employment for unused accrued paid sick leave.

An employer may not require, as a condition of an employee’s taking sick leave, that the employee find a replacement worker to cover the hours during which the employee is on paid sick leave.  However, an employer may require employees to give reasonable notification of an absence from work for which paid sick leave is or will be used.  An employer may only take reasonable measures to verify or document that an employee’s use of paid sick leave is lawful.  Employers are required to post a notice published by the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement informing employees of their rights under the ordinance in English, Spanish, Chinese and any language spoken by at least 5% of the employees at the workplace.

The ordinance prohibits retaliating against an employee for exercising their rights under the ordinance and authorizes the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement to implement and enforce its provisions.  It provides for administrative penalties, as well as a private right of action, should an employee be unlawfully denied sick leave or suffer from other harm as a result of a violation of the ordinance.  Employers are required to retain records documenting the hours worked by employees and the paid sick leave taken for a period of four years.  These records must be made available to the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement for the purposes of monitoring compliance with the ordinance.

Time will tell if this ordinance is challenged in court.  In the meantime, the ordinance raises issues for both multi-state and California employers which employ workers in San Francisco.