California Employment Law Blog

Sick Leave in the Golden State: What You Need to Know

Posted by Timothy B. Del Castillo | Oct 12, 2023 | 0 Comments

Sick leave is an important employment benefit that ensures the well-being of workers by allowing them to take time off when they are ill or need to care for a sick family member. In California, sick leave laws are designed to protect employees' rights and ensure that they have access to paid sick leave. In this post, we will provide an overview of California sick leave laws, including who is eligible, how much sick leave employees are entitled to, and the obligations of both employers and employees.

California Sick Leave Laws - An Overview

Under the California Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, most employees are entitled to accrue and use paid sick leave. This law was amended in 2015 to include additional provisions and went into effect on July 1, 2015.

Who Is Eligible for California Sick Leave?

Most California employees are eligible for sick leave benefits, including full-time, part-time, temporary, and seasonal workers. However, there are specific eligibility criteria:

  1. Employee Status: To be eligible, an employee must have worked for the same employer for at least 30 days within a year from the commencement of employment. It's important to note certain exceptions, notably employees covered by qualifying collective bargaining agreements, in-home supportive services providers, and specific categories of employees working for air carriers. 

  2. Accrual of Sick Leave: Sick leave is accrued at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, subject to certain caps and minimum usage requirements.

  3. Usage of Sick Leave: Employees can use accrued sick leave after 90 days of employment. They can use sick leave for their own illness or for the care of a family member (child, parent, spouse, registered domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling).

How Much Sick Leave Can Employees Accrue?

Under California law, employees can accrue up to 24 hours or three days of paid sick leave per year. However, employers have the option to provide more generous benefits if they choose to do so. Accrued but unused sick leave must carry over to the following year, but employers can cap the annual use of sick leave to 24 hours or three days.

Employer Obligations

Employers in California have specific obligations regarding sick leave:

  1. Notice: Employers must provide employees with written notice of their available sick leave balances on each paycheck or in a separate document issued the same day as their paycheck.

  2. Usage: Employers must allow employees to use accrued sick leave for the specified purposes without retaliation or adverse employment actions.

  3. Record Keeping: Employers are required to maintain records of sick leave accrual and usage for at least three years.

Employee Responsibilities

Employees are also responsible for complying with California sick leave laws:

  1. Notice: Employees must provide reasonable notice to their employers when they need to use sick leave, except in cases of emergency.

  2. Documentation: Employers may require reasonable documentation for sick leave exceeding three consecutive days.


California's sick leave laws are designed to ensure that employees have access to paid sick leave when they need it most. Employers must adhere to these laws, providing eligible employees with the opportunity to accrue and use sick leave while protecting their rights against retaliation or discrimination. Understanding these legal provisions is essential for both employers and employees to foster a healthy work environment and promote employee well-being. If you have any questions or concerns about your rights or responsibilities under California sick leave laws, consult with an experienced employment attorney for guidance.

About the Author

Timothy B. Del Castillo

Tim Del Castillo is Founding Partner of Castle Law: California Employment Counsel, PC.


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