It would seem pretty obvious that sick leave is time that you can take off work and still get paid when you are too sick to go to work. Sick time typically accrues every week or month in small increments up to a maximum of one or two weeks a year.

The official definition is as follows: “Sick leave” means accrued increments of compensated leave provided as a benefit for use by an employee during absence from work for any of the following reasons:

  • The employee is physically or mentally unable to perform his or her duties due to illness, injury or a medical condition.
  • The absence is for the purpose of obtaining professional diagnosis or treatment for a medical condition.
  • The absence is for other medical reasons, such as pregnancy or obtaining a physical examination.

Have you ever called in sick to work, not because you were sick, but because you had to take care of a family member? Well, if you did, you didn’t have to. I’ll explain.

California labor laws requires an employer that provides accrued sick leave for its employees to allow them to use a portion of that sick leave to attend to an illness of his or her child or children, parent, spouse, or domestic partner. The exact amount of sick leave an employee can use to care for a family member is limited. It is only half of the amount that accrues in any calendar year.  So, if an employee accrues 10 days off for sick leave a year, he or she can use 5 days to attend to a family member.

So next time your child is sick and needs to go to the doctor, or your significant other needs some attention due to an illness, you can tell your employer you are taking sick leave to attend to their needs.

An employer cannot deny an employee the right to use sick leave and cannot discharge, threaten to discharge, demote, suspend, or in any manner discriminate against an employee for using, or attempting to exercise the right to use, sick leave to attend to an illness of a child, parent, spouse, or domestic partner of the employee. In addition, penalties against an employer for denying an employee the right to use his or her sick leave are severe and include any actual damages and an award of attorneys’ fees and costs.