Bills of 2023: Newsom signs bill to add paid sick days

A fruit vendor at the Grand Central Market in Los Angeles, completes a transaction on Jan. 19, 2022. Photo by Pablo Unzueta for CalMatters
A fruit vendor at the Grand Central Market in Los Angeles, completes a transaction on Jan. 19, 2022. Photo by Pablo Unzueta for CalMatters
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Editor’s note: As 2023 draws to a close, The Signal is presenting CalMatters’ wrap-up stories on some of the key bills that reached the governor’s desk at the close of the 2023 legislative session. Here’s the CalMatters summary of Senate Bill 616, which increases the number of mandatory paid sick days for employees. 

By Sameea Kamal 
CalMatters Writer 

Senate Bill 616, authored by Long Beach Democrat Lena Gonzalez, increases the number of paid sick days employers must provide to workers from three to five, starting in 2024. 

Proponents originally sought seven days, but it was reduced in the appropriations suspense file. The bill also extends protections against retaliation to workers who are in a union, but excludes provisions that would have granted railroad employees access to unpaid sick leave. 

Who Supports It  

Advocacy groups for families and women and dozens of unions. The California Work & Family Coalition calls the bill “a common-sense change … ensuring that California workers do not have to choose between their health and paying the bills.”  

The California Budget & Policy Center says that the state’s sick leave has been less generous than in several other states. The bill is one of several measures this session aimed at improving work-life balance. 

Who Is Opposed  

Trade associations representing various industries such as the California Grocers Association and California Hotel & Lodging Association, as well as chamber of commerce groups throughout the state.  

They argue that many small businesses have not recovered from the pandemic and are now dealing with inflation. The California Chamber of Commerce had the bill on its “job killer” list and was urging the governor to veto it. 

Why It Matters 

There’s no federal law that requires employers to give workers paid sick leave. California became the second state in the nation to adopt a paid sick leave policy in 2014, but now provides less time than 15 states and many of its own cities, including San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley.  

This isn’t the first time an expansion has been introduced, but the COVID-19 pandemic amplified the need for more paid sick days. In March 2021, a new law required larger employers to provide as many as 10 more days for quarantines or vaccine side effects. But that benefit went away, along with federal tax credits that paid for it, six months later. 

The Governor’s Call  

Newsom announced Oct. 4 he signed the bill. “Too many folks are still having to choose between skipping a day’s pay and taking care of themselves or their family members when they get sick,” he said in a statement. “We’re making it known that the health and wellbeing of workers and their families is of the utmost importance for California’s future.” 

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