What's in LA County's new COVID paid leave law

The new version applies to employers of any size.

Last April, the County of Los Angeles passed the Los Angeles County COVID-19 Worker Protection Ordinance, which required employers with 500 or more employees working in unincorporated areas of the county to provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave to employees who needed to take time off work for reasons related to COVID-19.

That ordinance, as well as the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, expired on December 31, prompting the County of Los Angeles to issue a new ordinance.

Last month, the county passed an urgency ordinance requiring all private employers in unincorporated parts of Los Angeles County to provide up to 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave for certain COVID-19-related reasons, provided that the employee did not previously exhaust available leave under the FFCRA or the original supplemental paid sick leave ordinance.

Unlike the original ordinance, the new ordinance applies to all employers regardless of the number of employees.

And it's retroactive. The ordinance takes effect January 1, 2021, and will expire two calendar weeks after the expiration of the COVID-19 local emergency, as declared by the county.

Qualifying reasons for leave

Many employers will already have overcome the learning curve in implementing this COVID-19-related paid sick leave, so the requirements of the urgency ordinance should look familiar. The new ordinance requires employers to provide paid sick leave to employees, at the employee’s written request, if the employee cannot work, or telework, for one of the following reasons:

  • A public health official or health care provider requires or recommends the employee isolate or self-quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • The employee is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 (for example, is at least 65 years old or has a health condition such as heart disease, asthma, lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease, or weakened immune system).
  • The employee needs to care for a family member who is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 or has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19.
  • The employee takes time off work because the employee needs to provide care for a family member whose senior care provider or whose school or child care provider ceases operations in response to a public health or other public official’s recommendation.

Employers may require a doctor’s note or other documentation as a condition of granting the employee’s leave request.

Eligibility, maximum leave available

The ordinance applies to all employees who perform work within the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, except (for the period of March 31-December 31, 2020) “food sector workers” as defined by the California Governor's Executive Order N-51-20. Emergency responders and health care providers remain excluded from the definition of “employee.”

Eligible full-time employees can receive up to 80 hours of Supplemental Paid Sick Leave. Employees who are not classified as full-time, or who work less than 40 hours a week, are eligible for paid leave in an amount not greater than their average two-week pay. The paid leave is calculated based on the employee’s highest average two-week pay between January 1, 2020, and January 1, 2021. The paid leave is capped at $511 per day, or $5,110 in total.


Employees may sue employers in court to enforce the urgency ordinance. If they prevail, they can recover monetary damages and obtain equitable relief, including (1) reinstatement, (2) back pay and supplemental paid leave unlawfully withheld, and (3) reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.

Need help?

Los Angeles County joins other California cities or counties that have enacted paid sick leave ordinances, including the City and County of San Francisco, Sacramento County, and the City of Long Beach. 

Employers are encouraged to consult with employment counsel to ensure compliance with these new ordinances.

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