San Francisco Updates Guidance on Paid Sick Leave and COVID-19

By Cepideh Roufougar and Julie Y. Zong © Jackson Lewis March 8, 2022
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​While many employers are concerned with complying with the recently passed statewide COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave, employers should also be aware of the interactions between regular paid sick leave and COVID-19 related absences. As such, employers are well-served to stay current on the latest updates for San Francisco's Paid Sick Leave Ordinance.

The San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE) recently issued a temporary update to its guidance regarding San Francisco's Paid Sick Leave ordinance and COVID-19. The following is a summary of the temporary changes made to that guidance.

Policies Requiring Doctor's Notes

Under the temporarily amended guidance, policies or practices that require a doctor's note or other documentation for the use of paid sick leave of more than five consecutive workdays (whether full or partial days) shall be deemed presumptively reasonable, provided an employee is using paid sick leave for a COVID-19 related reason and is not under a doctor's care, the employer shall accept the employee's attestation of the need for paid sick leave pursuant to current CDC guidelines and OLSE Rule 2.4, pertaining to potential abuse of sick leave. This change is temporary and only in effect for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

When the public health emergency ends, or upon a decision to revoke this temporary guidance, the guidance will revert back to the previous rule which stated that requiring a doctor's note for the use of paid sick leave of three or fewer consecutive workdays shall be deemed unreasonable. The previous rule also stated that practices that required a doctor's note for the use of paid sick leave of more than three workdays was deemed reasonable.

COVID-19 Related Reasons for Use of Paid Sick Leave

The temporary guidance sets forth several COVID-19 specific reasons for which an employee may use San Francisco Paid Sick Leave.  Those reasons are:

  • The employee takes time off work because public health officials or healthcare providers require or recommend an employee isolate or quarantine to prevent the spread of disease.
  • The employee takes time off work for a COVID-19 vaccination appointment or vaccination side effects.
  • The employee takes time off work because the employee's business or a work location temporarily ceases operations in response to a public health or other public official's recommendation.
  • The employee takes time off work because the employee needs to provide care for a family member to attend a COVID-19 vaccination appointment, who is experiencing vaccination side effects, or who is not sick but who public health officials or healthcare providers have required or recommended isolate or quarantine.
  • The employee takes time off work because the employee needs to provide care for a family member whose school, childcare provider, senior care provider, or work temporarily ceases operations in response to a public health or other public official's recommendation.

Finally, the guidance makes it clear that workers who have been laid off by their employers are not eligible for paid sick leave. Employees also are not allowed to use sick leave to supplement a reduction in hours. The guidance states that leave is only available to use for qualifying reasons when an employee is unable to work a portion of their scheduled hours.

Cepideh Roufougar and Julie Y. Zong are attorneys with Jackson Lewis in San Francisco. © 2022 Jackson Lewis. All rights reserved. Reposted with permission. 

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