Can I Get Paid Time Off to Get a COVID-19 Vaccine?
Probably yes. Many employees in California are entitled to paid sick leave for the purpose of getting vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
In March, the California legislature passed a new law to replace the supplemental paid sick leave provisions of the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), which expired on December 31, 2020. The new law, signed by Governor Newsome on March 19, 2020, applies to any California employer with more than 25 employees. Like the FFCRA, the new law contains a sunset provision, under which it expires on September 30, 2021. Until that date, California workers have important protections when they require sick leave for COVID-19-related reasons.
The new law provides a right to paid sick leave similar to the sick leave by the FFRCA, but it also includes a provision that grants workers the right to paid sick leave (“PTO”) to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.
What If I Already Took Time Off Under Other COVID-19 Leave Laws?
The new law requires PTO for getting a COVID-19 vaccine in addition to any other employer-provided PTO. Thus, if you exhausted your leave under the FFCRA or other COVID leave laws, you can still take PTO under the new law. Employers may not, subject to some narrow exceptions, require employees to use other leave in lieu of or before using the newly enacted COVID-19 PTO time.
What If I Already Took Unpaid Time Off to Get My COVID Vaccine?
You might be able to ask your employer to pay you back. The new law is retroactive to January 1, 2021, and employers are required to compensate employees for any unpaid leave taken before the new law’s effective date. Thus, if you had to take unpaid leave to get a COVID-19 vaccination, or for any other qualifying reason, you may request retroactive payment from the employer.
Can My Employer Fire Me For Taking Time Off to Get Vaccinated?
No. The anti-retaliation provisions of Labor Code section 246.5(c) apply to protect workers who request PTO that would be covered by the new law. Thus, if your employer retaliates against you for taking leave to get a COVID-19 vaccination, for another qualifying reason, your employer could be liable to you for reinstatement and backpay.