On April 7, 2020, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed the Public Health Emergency Leave Ordinance (PHELO) to expand paid sick leave and emergency family medical leave benefits in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. That ordinance was not signed and enacted by Mayor Breed, and the Board of Supervisors has now passed an amended version of the ordinance (Amended PHELO), on April 14, 2020, which is awaiting the mayor’s signature. Although the Amended PHELO is substantially similar to the previous version, it includes three key changes in that it (1) expands the definition of covered employees; (2) clarifies the calculation and availability of leave; and (3) modifies leave guaranteed to health care providers and emergency responders.
Covered employees. First, the original PHELO provided coverage only to employees who performed 56 or more hours of work in the City and County of San Francisco during the year prior to its enactment. The Amended PHELO expands this coverage by broadening the definition of employee to include any person providing labor or services for remuneration who is deemed an employee under California Labor Code section 2750.3(a). This includes part-time and temporary employees, persons considered employees under the existing San Francisco Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, and employees who are participants in a welfare-to-work program, including but not limited to CalWORKS and the County Adult Assistance Program.
Calculations and availability of leave. Second, the Amended PHELO provides additional guidance on calculating the amount of leave available to each employee and caps the amount of leave available during a single workweek. The Amended PHELO clarifies that full-time employees are entitled to 80 hours of paid leave and that part-time employees are entitled to sick leave hours equal to the number of hours that the employee works, on average, over a two-week period. Notably, it also allows employers to reduce their obligation to provide leave under the Amended PHELO by every hour of time off that they preemptively provided due to COVID-19 (aside from the employee’s accrued or regular paid time off or paid sick time).
Moreover, the Amended PHELO caps the amount of leave available during a single week to the average number of hours over a one-week period that the employee was scheduled to work over the six-month period from August 25, 2019 through February 25, 2020. This includes any hours for which the employee took leave.
Health care providers and emergency responders. Third, rather than allowing employers of health care providers and emergency responders to exclude employees entirely, the Amended PHELO allows employers to limit these employees’ use of the emergency paid sick leave to the extent that the employee is unable to work because the employee (1) has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine, or (2) is experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, is seeking a medical diagnosis, and does not meet the Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for criteria to return to work for health care personnel with confirmed or suspected COVID-19.
The Amended PHELO is currently awaiting the signature of Mayor Breed, who has until April 24, 2020 to sign the ordinance into law, return the ordinance unsigned (in which case the legislation becomes law after the passing of April 24, 2020), or disapprove and veto the ordinance.