HR Management & Compliance

California Supreme Court Resolves KinCare Issue

As every California employer knows, our state’s employment laws are unique. One unique feature is the KinCare law — which permits employees to use some of their accrued paid sick leave to care for ill family members. Sick leave that is used by an employee under the KinCare law cannot be counted against the employee under an employer’s absenteeism policy.

A recent decision of the California Supreme Court clarifies when the KinCare law applies and when it doesn’t.

Our HR Management & Compliance Report: How To Comply with California and Federal Leave Laws, covers everything you need to know to stay in compliance with both state and federal law in one of the trickiest areas of compliance for even the most experienced HR professional. Learn the rules for pregnancy and parental leaves, medical exams and certifications, intermittent leaves, required notices, and more.

Employees Kimberly McCarther and Juan Huerta brought a class action lawsuit against Pacific Bell and other affiliated companies. Per company policy, employees were entitled to receive pay for any days off due to their own illnesses or injuries, not to exceed 5 consecutive days in a 7-day period.

Employees did not accrue paid sick leave in a bank, and there was no set cap as to the amount of sick leave that an employee could take. Employees were not permitted to use sick leave to care for an ill family member. At the same time, and despite being paid for sick days, employees were subject to progressive discipline for excessive absences, including absences taken due to illness or injury.

The employees argued that the companies’ sick leave and absenteeism policies violated the KinCare law. Disagreeing with the appellate court, the Supreme Court ruled that the KinCare law applies to sick leave plans only if the employee actually accrues a set amount of sick leave in a given period of time. When paid sick leave is offered on an as-needed basis, the employer is not required to allow employees to use that leave to care for family members, and accumulated employee absences can be charged against employees under an absenteeism policy.

We’ll have more about this case and about sick leave and KinCare in an upcoming issue of California Employer Advisor.

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