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California local governments can, and sometimes do, legislate their own rules for employers within their jurisdictions.

For example, San Francisco County requires employers to provide paid sick leave. After 90 days on the job, all employees in the city and the county begin accruing paid sick leave at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. In businesses with fewer than 10 employees, workers may accrue up to 40 hours of paid sick leave. For all other businesses, the ceiling is 72 hours. The leave doesn’t vest, so employers needn’t pay for any accrued but unused sick leave when employees quit.

Employees may take leave for their own illness or that of a child, parent, legal guardian or ward, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, spouse, registered domestic partner or other designated person. (Employees who don’t have a spouse or a domestic partner may designate another person.)

San Francisco’s law has teeth. Employers that deny paid sick leave must pay a worker three times the amount of the illegally withheld leave or $250 (whichever amount is greater). You incur additional penalties if you terminate, discipline or demote an employee for taking the leave; plus the city will assess charges if it has to investigate.

Living-wage laws

Several municipalities have living-wage laws stipulating higher pay than the state minimum wage ($7.50 per hour). Some highlights:

Ventura: City employees who work more than 1,000 hours per year and employees of city contractors with contracts in excess of $25,000 must earn $9.75 per hour if the employer provides health benefits; $12.50 per hour if it does not.

Santa Barbara: Businesses that receive at least $15,000 annually in contracts from the city must pay their workers $14 per hour if they don’t have health benefits or $12 with benefits. Employers that provide additional benefits can pay employees $11 per hour.

Santa Monica: Contractors with contracts in excess of $52,600 with the city must pay their workers $12.10 per hour.

Sonoma: Its living-wage law covers for-profit businesses performing at least $10,000 work on city contracts, nonprofits with at least $75,000 on city contracts and companies receiving loans or assistance in excess of $100,000. Those employers must pay workers $11.70 per hour with health benefits; $13.20 if they don’t have coverage. Additionally, covered employers must allow employees to take at least 12 days’ paid leave and 10 days’ unpaid leave per year.

Sacramento: Workers employed by the city or its contractors must earn $9.67 per hour if they receive employer-sponsored health benefits; $11.17 per hour if they don’t.

Sebastopol: Its living-wage ordinance covers city employees, contractors that hold at least $10,000 in city contracts, city lessees whose gross income exceeds $350,000 annually and companies receiving more than $100,000 in city loans. Covered employers must pay their workers $13.20 per hour, but they may deduct health benefit costs from that figure.

Port of Oakland: Workers at Oakland’s airport and seaport must earn a minimum wage of $10.07 per hour with health benefits or $11.58 without the coverage.

Santa Cruz: City and county contractors must pay their workers $12.43 per hour plus benefits; $13.56 if they don’t provide them.

San Francisco: The city’s minimum wage is $9.14 per hour for all employers with 10 or more employees. 

Excerpted from California's 10 Most Critical Employment Laws, a special bonus report available to subscribers of HR Specialist: California Employment Law.

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