What Is the Law for Calling in Sick in California?

By Madison Garcia - Updated June 12, 2017
Ill woman and laptop

In the past, California employers were free to create their own policies and procedures for awarding sick leave. Now employers must comply with the rules of the Paid Sick Leave law. If an employee qualifies for mandatory paid sick leave, employers are obligated to provide the time off when the employee is too ill to work.

Sick Leave Rights

Effective July 1, 2015, all employers in California have been required to provide three days of paid sick leave a year to employees. This must be provided for exempt, nonexempt, part-time, seasonal and temporary employees. Employees begin to accrue the paid sick leave after working for 30 days and can start to use the sick leave after they've been employed for 90 days.

In addition to mandatory sick leave, employers may also choose to disburse additional sick days to certain staff as a work benefit.

Advance Notice of Sick Leave

The law doesn't specify how much advance notice an employee must give to use his mandatory paid sick leave days. The law does state that employers are required to provide an employee with the sick day after an oral or a written request. However, employers may create policies for any sick leave awarded above and beyond the three-day mandatory minimum. For these days, an employer could request one or two hours' notice in order to use additional paid sick leave.

Certifications or Doctor's Notes

The Paid Sick Leave law doesn't specifically address whether an employer can request a doctor's note or proof of illness. The law suggests that doing so many be construed as an attempt to deprive an employee of their mandatory sick leave. Employers may ask for certification of unscheduled absences for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence or stalking. An employer is free to request a doctor's note for sick leave it has awarded voluntarily to employees beyond the three-day minimum.

Layoffs or Dismissal for Calling in Sick

Under the Paid Sick Leave law, it's illegal for employers to retaliate against employees for using their mandatory sick leave. If you believe your employer is retaliating against you for calling in sick, contact an employment attorney to better understand your options and rights. You may be entitled to damages along with unemployment benefits.

About the Author

Based in San Diego, Calif., Madison Garcia is a writer specializing in business topics. Garcia received her Master of Science in accountancy from San Diego State University.

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