On May 18, 2021, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors adopted an urgency ordinance requiring employers to provide paid leave to eligible employees who need time off related to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Officially titled “Employee Paid Leave for Expanded Vaccine Access,” the ordinance took immediate effect upon passage and applies retroactively to January 1, 2021, with an expiration date of August 31, 2021.
The ordinance covers all employers that have an employee performing work in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County and covers any employee performing work in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.
COVID-19 Vaccine Paid Leave Entitlements
An employee is entitled to a certain amount of “COVID-19 Vaccine Leave,” based on whether they are full time or part time. An employee cannot use COVID-19 Vaccine Leave until and unless they have exhausted all available leave under California’s 2021 COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave law (as codified in Labor Code section 248.2).
A full-time employee, who has exhausted all available leave under California’s 2021 COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave law, is entitled to use up to four hours of additional paid leave per injection to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. An employee is full time if they’re either (a) considered to work full-time, or (b) they worked or were scheduled to work, on average, at least 40 hours per week for the employer in the two weeks preceding the date the employee took COVID-19 Vaccine Leave.
A part-time employee (any employee who is not a full-time employee), who has exhausted all available leave under California’s 2021 COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave law, is entitled to additional paid leave to receive the COVID-19 vaccination at a prorated four hours per injection based on their normally scheduled work hours over the two-week period preceding the injection. For example, if an employee worked 20 hours per week during the two-week period, the employee would be entitled to two hours of COVID-19 Vaccine Paid Leave per injection.
The total number of COVID-19 Vaccine Paid Leave hours under the ordinance is in addition to any paid sick leave that may be available to the employee under California’s Paid Sick Leave Law (under Labor Code section 246 et seq.).
An employee taking COVID-19 Vaccine Paid Leave must be compensated at their “normal rate of pay,” and the leave must be calculated based on an employee’s highest average two-week pay over the period of January 1, 2021, through May 18, 2021 (the effective date of the ordinance).
Qualifying Reasons for Using COVID-19 Vaccine Leave
Employees may use COVID-19 Vaccine Leave for time spent to:
- Travel to and from a COVID-19 vaccine appointment;
- Receive the COVID-19 vaccine injection; and
- Recover from any symptoms related to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine that prevent the employee from being able to work or telework.
An employer may ask an employee to provide written verification of COVID-19 vaccine receipt to receive COVID-19 Vaccine Leave.
Notice and Recordkeeping Requirements
Every employer must post a written notice in a conspicuous place where employees work, which the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Business Affairs (DCBA) will prepare and make electronically available, informing employees of the COVID-19 Vaccine Leave Ordinance and their rights under the ordinance. As of the date of publication, the DCBA has not yet made this notice available, but employers should continue to regularly monitor the county website.
Employers must also keep records demonstrating compliance with the ordinance, including complete and accurate payroll records pertaining to each employee that document each employee’s name, address, occupation, dates of employment, rate or rates of pay, and the amount paid. These records must be retained for four years. Employers who fail to keep records or otherwise cooperate with the DCBA (the enforcement agency) during an investigation of an alleged violation will be presumed to have violated the ordinance.
Retaliation and Enforcement
Employers may not terminate, reduce pay or otherwise discriminate or retaliate against an employee for requesting to use supplemental paid sick leave, or otherwise exercising their rights under the ordinance.
An employee claiming an ordinance violation may bring an action in civil court and, if successful, may be awarded reinstatement, benefits and back pay unlawfully withheld, reasonable attorney’s fees and costs and/or any other relief the court deems appropriate. Employees may also file an administrative complaint with the DCBA to allege a potential violation of the ordinance.
The ordinance will remain in effect until August 31, 2021.