New: Los Angeles County Paid Vaccine Ordinance

a row of covid-19 vaccine

Los Angeles County is the third jurisdiction to enact a standalone COVID-19 vaccine paid leave, joining New York State and Chicago, Illinois. On May 18, 2021, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors enacted an Urgency Ordinance that, under specific circumstances, will require all private employers to provide paid leave so that employees may receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The paid leave will include time the employee spends traveling to and from the appointment and any time spent recovering from symptoms or reactions caused by receiving the vaccine that prevent the employee from working or teleworking. The ordinance took effect immediately upon its signing but will apply retroactively to January 1, 2021 and will remain in effect until August 31, 2021.

The ordinance is in addition to any job-protected paid leave employees receive under California’s Paid Sick Leave (PSL) law, the Health Workplace Health Family Act (HWHFA), and is available only if employees exhaust all available California Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (CA-SPSL).

For example, employee A and employee B make appointments to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Both employees work full-time for ABC Company that provides California Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (CA-SPSL), but has not voluntarily extended leave under Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA):

Employee A 

  • November 2020, employee used FFCRA leave for COVID-19 (80 hours exhausted). 
  • January 2021, employee’s family member had COVID-19 and employee used 40 hours to care for the family member. Employee has 40 hours of CA-SPSL remaining. 
  • May 2021, employee makes COVID-19 vaccine appointments (2 injections for a total of 8 hours needed for leave). 
  • Employee is not eligible for LA Vaccine Leave as the 8 hours will be applied from the remaining CA-SPSL balance. 

Employee B

  • January 2021, employee was out for 40 hours due to COVID-19. ABC Company retroactively applied CA-SPSL to cover the cost of this time off. Employee has 40 hours CA-SPSL remaining.
  •  April 2021, employee’s family member had COVID-19 and employee uses the remaining 40 hours of CA-SPSL to care for the family member.
  •  May 2021, employee makes COVID-19 vaccine appointments (2 injections for a total of 8 hours needed for leave). 
  •  Employee is eligible for LA Vaccine Leave paid at 8 hours.

The amount of leave an employer is required to potentially provide is dependent on employee status of full- or part-time. 

  • Full-time employees (those considered full-time by the employer or that worked or were scheduled to work 40 hours per week in the two weeks preceding the leave) are permitted up to four (4) hours of leave per injection. 
  • Part-time employees can use a proportionate amount based on their normally scheduled work hours over the two weeks preceding the injection. For example, the ordinance provides that an employee working 20 hours per week can use two (2) hours of leave per injection. 

Employers are permitted to request that employees provide written verification that they received a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Employers are required to pay employees at what the ordinance defines as their “normal” rate of pay. This  can be calculated by using the employee’s highest average two-week pay over the period of January 1st through May 18, 2021. Additionally, employers are required to display the written notice the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs (LACDCBA) will create (website should be monitored) and must keep records demonstrating their compliance for four (4) years. These records should include the payroll records for each employee which include the employee’s name, address, occupation, dates of employment, pay rate(s), and amount paid. Failure to keep these records or make them available to LACDCBA creates the presumption that the employer did not comply with the ordinance. 

Employers are prohibited from refusing leave, terminating employment, making compensation reductions, or taking any adverse action against individuals who in good faith exercise rights provided to them under the ordinance. Within three (3) years of an alleged violation, Individuals may file a complaint with LACDCBA. LACDCBA will investigate and enforce the ordinance or file a lawsuit in state court.  If the employee prevails, employers may be held to reinstatement, interest on damages, back pay, penalties and fines (which are tripled for unlawful retaliation), and other appropriate legal or equitable relief including reasonable attorney fees. 

The ordinance applies to all employees performing any work within the county’s unincorporated areas, however parties to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) can jointly waive the law’s requirements via an explicit, clear, and unambiguous waiver in the CBA.

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