Measure to require paid sick leave passes California Assembly

Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union march in support of El Super grocery workers in Inglewood last fall, calling for paid sick leave as well as higher pay and more work hours.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

A measure that would require employers to give employees at least three paid sick days a year cleared the Assembly on Thursday, overcoming fierce opposition from business groups.

The bill, by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), would make employees eligible to accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Employers would be able to limit the use of that paid leave to three days per year. If signed into law, the measure would go into effect in July 2015.

“We want basically every worker in California in those dire times when they or a loved one is sick to be able to take paid time off without worrying about whether they’re able to make ends meet,” Gonzalez said in an interview after the vote.


Republicans opposed the measure, arguing it imposed too high a burden on employers.

Assemblyman Donald P. Wagner (R-Irvine) called the bill, AB 1522, an “ill-considered, heavy-handed, one-sided piece of legislation.”

But the measure was supported by many moderate Democrats, including Assemblyman Henry T. Perea (D-Fresno), the head of the Moderate Democratic caucus.

The measure faces stiff resistance from the business community, including the California Chamber of Commerce, which has branded the bill a “job killer.”

Paid sick leave has become a priority for labor groups in recent years, but so far they have been unable to achieve a statewide mandate. Former Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) introduced bills calling for paid sick leave several times, most recently in 2011, but those measures failed to advance.

The campaign for paid sick leave, however, has had some success in cities. In 2006, San Francisco passed a law requiring all businesses to provide sick days to all employees who work in the city -- the first law of its kind in the nation.

Since then, a number of other U.S. cities have followed suit, including Seattle and Portland, Ore. Earlier this year, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio pushed through an expansion of his city’s paid-sick-leave law.

The three-day minimum in Gonzalez’s bill is more modest than laws in other places, where five or seven sick days have been guaranteed.