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California Sick Time... What Are the Laws? California

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  • California Sick Time... What Are the Laws? California

    My work, a large organization in California has recently changed our sick policy.

    They went from a maximum of 10 unpaid/unexcused absences a year (accounting for sick time, family illness, etc.) to the new policy which is zero tolerance.

    On the old system, you could get fired only after you exhausted the 10 days. However, now you can get fired "at any moment" as they said, if they feel you are abusing the new zero tolerance policy. Who gets fired is at discretion of the attendance manager and there is no formal policy in writing stating a specific number of sick days/absences you can have before being terminated.

    Employees are expected to do use vacation time, exchange days (trading with another employee) in order to avoid "unexcused absences" (sick days in other words).

    I'm just wondering would happen if my daughter got sick and I had to call out, would my company really fire me for that? Would I have any legal recourse if I had no vacation time to cover this?

    I feel like this is an extreme policy and don't know what I will do being as I have 3 children who do get sick throughout the year and I'm a single parent. Will I have to save my 2 weeks of vacation to use as sick time going forward? I feel that this is pretty unfair.


  • #2
    There are no laws in any state that require any particular number of sick days.

    For exempt employees ONLY, an employer who does not offer a reasonable number of paid sick days cannot dock the employee for absences related to the employee's own illness. But neither the Feds nor the state care what "bucket" the pay comes out of; if the employer wants to take it from vacation time, it's all the same to them. It's not illegal to not offer sick days to exempt employees; they just can't be docked in that case.

    For non-exempt employees, with very rare, state and sometimes industry specific exceptions that do not apply here, there is no legal expectation of being paid when s/he does not work, regardless of the reason.

    The employer would have to make exceptions in the case of absences that are attributable to FMLA or CFRA. The time could be unpaid; both are unpaid by definition. But the employee could not be fired for such absences. For absences that are not attributable to FMLA/CFRA, however, it would be legal to fire the employee. I'm not saying I think it would be smart or that I agree with the policy; I agree that it's extreme and I suspect the employer will not hold to it long as it's virtually unworkable. But with the caveats above, it would be legal.
    The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.


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