State fines El Super grocery chain $447,000 for failing to provide COVID sick leave

The meat counter at the El Super store in Highland Park.
The meat counter at the El Super store in Highland Park.
(Jack Flemming / Los Angeles Times)

The California Labor Commissioner has cited three El Super grocery stores for failing to provide or delaying supplemental paid sick leave to dozens of workers affected by the coronavirus.

Bodega Latina Corp., which operates the El Super chain, was fined more than $447,000 on Thursday for alleged violations affecting 95 workers at El Super stores in Los Angeles, Lynwood and Victorville.

“Supplemental paid sick leave is intended to protect workers from being forced to choose between their health and providing for their families,” state Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower said in a statement Tuesday. “These violations expose workers, their families and El Super’s customers to unnecessary health risks.”

According to the state Department of Industrial Relations, this is the first citation for failure to provide coronavirus supplementary paid sick leave for food sector workers under a 2020 measure. The agency said that the citations for alleged violations of a 2021 extension of the law appeared to be the first.

El Super has disputed the state’s claims and said it had filed an appeal.

“The citation is without merit and we will vigorously defend our record of compliance,” Eric Rose, a spokesperson for El Super, said in a statement.


State officials said they opened an investigation on Sept. 9, 2020, in response to complaints from workers and a referral from a labor union. They said that investigators found that El Super did not inform workers of their rights to coronavirus supplemental paid sick leave and alleged that some workers were told to work until they received their test results despite having symptoms of COVID-19.

Under the 2021 COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave law, which went into effect in March after a previous state measure expired, employees who cannot work or telework due to COVID-19-related reasons are entitled to paid sick leave if they work for an employer with more than 25 employees. That includes workers who must quarantine or isolate, are caring for a quarantining family member or who cannot work or telework due to vaccine-related side effects.

The law is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2021, and expires Sept. 30, 2021.