California Expands Protections for Essential Food Workers

When the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) came out and mandated emergency paid sick leave benefits for workers of companies with fewer than 500 employees, did you ever think, “What about employees in larger companies?” Well, apparently Governor Newsom did because yesterday he signed an executive order to provide additional benefits specifically for essential food workers in companies with 500 or more employees.

This order does not cover all employees working for larger employers, it specifically targets workers in the critical food supply chain: farming, grocery, food delivery, and the like. The order essentially mirrors certain aspects of the FFCRA, but there are also important differences. Here is a summary of the key elements:

Who’s Covered?

Food Sector Workers employed by a Hiring Entity working under Wage Orders 3, 8, 13, or 14; people working for a food facility under Health and Safety Code section 113789; or people delivering food from such food facilities. This includes agricultural workers, food processors and packagers, grocery workers, restaurants, and food delivery workers, whether or not they are employees or independent contractors. The order went into effect April 16, 2020 and lasts for the duration of any statewide stay-at-home order. If the stay-at-home order expires and a worker is in the middle of active leave, the worker is still entitled to the full amount of leave.

Qualifying Reasons

Unlike the FFCRA, there are no qualifying reasons to care for others, rather, to qualify for paid leave, workers must be:

  1. subject to a government isolation order related to COVID-19;
  2. advised by health care provider to quarantine; or
  3. prohibited from working by the Hiring Entity due to health concerns related to potential transmission of COVID-19

Amount of COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave

Full-time workers are entitled to up to 80 hours of leave. Full-time is defined as anyone the Hiring Entity considers full-time and anyone working at least 40 hours per week for the two weeks preceding their request. The amount is prorated for part-time workers.

Rate of Pay

Affected workers must be paid their regular rate of pay from the prior pay period. This amount must be at least equal to or greater than applicable minimum wage requirements. The maximum pay cap mirrors the FFCRA requirements of $511 per day or $5,110 total. However, unlike the FFCRA, the Hiring Entity must bear the cost of providing this benefit; there is no provision for a tax credit.

Hand Washing Provision

In addition to providing COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave, a final provision mandates that workers be allowed to wash their hands (not just use sanitizer) every 30 minutes and additionally as needed.

Notice Requirements

The order states that a model notice should be available by 4/23/20 and may be distributed electronically where workers do not frequent a workplace.

This information is intended merely as a summary, read the full executive order.