With the rise in COVID-19 instances, San Jose is increasing safety towards paid sick depart

With COVID-19 cases devastating Silicon Valley records and decreasing hospitals capacity, San Jose lawmakers have taken steps to ensure key workers receive paid sick leave by June.

In the absence of COVID-19 protection against federal paid sick leave, the San Jose City Council unanimously voted on Jan. 5 to extend local sickness benefits through mid-2021.

According to the new Emergency Ordinance, employees receive 80 hours of paid sick leave per year and part-time employees can receive leave worth two weeks. The vacation can be used regardless of how long an employee has worked on site for a company.

This protection was once granted to employees through the Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), but the law expired on December 31, 2020 – and as of now federal officials have no plans to extend it.

“This is another example of a city being the last line of defense for our community when our federal government essentially lets us down,” said Councilor Maya Esparza.

In anticipation of the lack of federal support, the San Jose City Council approved the extension of the city’s protection last month, but local lawmakers waited to see if the FFCRA would be extended first.

The San Jose Ordinance is effective immediately and expires June 30th. It also creates a private right of action for employees to enforce paid sickness benefits.

The regulation on paid sick leave COVID-19, issued on April 7, 2020, was originally intended only to serve as a supplement to federal protection – which city guides and workers did not insist on. It also includes workers who are excluded from federal politics.

Rosa Espinoza, who has worked for McDonald’s in San Jose for 20 years, COVID-19 has increased the need for more paid sick leave.

“We have about three days a year and right now, with the pandemic, workers are being told to go home even if they have a little cough and sometimes are not allowed to take paid sick leave because managers say that they have to call ahead of time, “Espinoza said through a translator. “I urge you all to think about extending this protection through the summer as people need time to get the vaccine and stop the spread.”

Under California law, full-time employees can earn at least 24 hours of paid sick leave per year or at least one hour of paid vacation for every 30 hours they work. Employees can use this paid sick leave after 90 days.

The FFCRA has exempted companies with more than 500 employees or companies with fewer than 50 employees from the additional paid time off. The San Jose ordinance covered essential employees without exception. Employees can also use the sick time to take care of another person. However, they get two-thirds of their regular pay up to $ 2,000.

The policy requires employers to grant paid sick leave to an employee if the employee is required to be quarantined due to COVID-19, if the employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, and if a diagnosis is made if the employee is caring for another person with COVID -19 Isolation or when the employee is caring for a child whose school has been closed due to COVID-19 – where no other childcare option is available.

The vote was particularly emotional for Councilor Sylvia Arenas, who was recently diagnosed with COVID-19. Arenas recognized her own privilege and praised her colleagues for their actions.

“It was just a relief not to think about a paycheck, and certainly when I think of some of the people who are out there every day interacting with people like Rosa … she is risking her life – she is risking her health and the well – to be in their own household by these people, ”said Arenas. “I am really proud of the work we are doing here.”

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Santa Clara County, Councilor Magdalena Carrasco said the city needs to be sure that people are not packing, delivering or cooking for others while they are sick.

“This is a humanitarian crisis,” said Carrasco. “San Jose has to show the way.”

Contact Carly Wipf at [email protected] or follow @CarlyChristineW on Twitter.

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