Berkeley, California is in the news and it is not just because Jeffrey Toobin’s book about the 1974 kidnapping of Patty Hearst in Berkeley is on the NYT best seller list. Berkeley is also in the news because it has joined the growing list—now more than 30—of states and municipalities that have enacted paid sick leave laws.
It is surprising that Berkeley has taken this long to join the PSL movement. San Francisco passed its ordinance in 2007 and since Berkeley is generally considered one of the most politically liberal cities in the country, one would have expected Berkeley to have joined the movement sooner. Even Berkeley’s southern neighbors, Emeryville and Oakland, had done so.
Berkeley’s Council adopted the Paid Sick Leave Ordinance on August 29, 2016. Employees accrue PSL at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. Employers with fewer than 25 employees may cap the accrual at 48 hours; otherwise, employers may cap the accrual at 72 hours. Subject to these caps, an employee may carry over all unused PSL.
Employees who work within Berkeley at least two hours in a week are eligible to accrue PSL. PSL may be used after 90 calendar days of employment and may be used to “aid or care” for a spouse, registered domestic partner and a long list of relatives, which include biological relatives, step-relationships, foster care relationships and relationships arising from adoption. If an employee does not have a spouse or registered domestic partner, the employee may designate annually a person to whom the employee may provide aid or care and use PSL to do so.
An employee must give the employer reasonable notice of a foreseeable need to use PSL and as much notice as practicable for an unforeseeable need. Employers must post the notice published by the City at every workplace in any language spoken by at least five percent of the employees at the site. Employers must also inform employees the amount of accrued PSL available at the end of each pay period.
The ordinance has the usual prohibitions. An employer may neither interfere with, restrain or deny the exercise of rights under the ordinance nor discriminate or retaliate against anyone for exercising rights under the ordinance.
The ordinance creates an administrative enforcement mechanism and also allows an employee to pursue a private right of action in court.
As an aside, Toobin’s book, American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst, is a terrific read with some fascinating details. For example, before reading the book, I could not even speculate about why Lance Ito, a Berkeley law student in 1974 who presided at the O.J. Simpson criminal trial in 1995, and Sara Jane Moore, who attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975, would be mentioned in the book!