California Employer Ordered to Pay Nearly $450K for Violations of COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Laws

On July 27, 2021, the California Labor Commissioner’s Office announced that it cited three El Super grocery stores for not providing or delaying COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (SPSL) as well as other benefits. Over 95 employees affected by COVID-19 were required to work while sick, apply for unemployment while quarantining or in isolation, or simply wait to get paid.

El Super Grocery was cited under two California laws: the 2020 COVID-19 SPSL law, which expired on December 31, 2020, and the 2021 COVID-19 SPSL law. The 2020 SPSL law applied to employers with 500 or more employees nationwide and required covered employers to provide paid leave to California employees for various COVID-19 reasons. California employers with 26 or more employees are currently required to provide leave under the 2021 COVID-19 SPSL law, which took effect on March 29, 2021, and applied retroactively to January 1, 2021. Covered employers are required to provide a new bank of up to 80 hours of COVID-19 SPSL for various COVID-19-related reasons, including leave to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Labor Commissioner’s Office launched an investigation in September 2020 and found that the employer failed to consistently notify their employees of their rights and didn’t provide or delay SPSL. El Super Grocery was cited $114,741.67 for wages, damages, and interest for failing to provide 2020 SPSL for food sector workers and an additional $14,894.66 in wages, damages, and interest for failing to provide 2021 SPSL. Lastly, El Super Grocery was ordered to pay an additional $318,200 in penalties for late and nonpayment of SPSL.

Failure to comply with California’s COVID-19 SPSL law can result in significant penalties for a covered employer. Members with operations in California who have questions about the 2021 COVID-19 SPSL law or how to handle COVID-19 exposures in the workplace can contact the California Legal Services team at CAInfo@employerscouncil.org.