The California Labor Commissioner’s Office cited Bodega Latina (dba El Super grocery stores) in Southern California $1,164,500 for failing to provide or delaying supplemental paid sick leave or other benefits to 240 workers at 38 locations affected by COVID-19.
An investigation reportedly found that some workers were forced to work while sick, others were told to apply for unemployment while quarantining or in isolation, while others waited months to be paid.
In July, the commissioner cited El Super $447,876 for similar violations affecting 95 workers at three stores.
The commissioner’s office opened its investigation on Sept. 9, 2020, after receiving complaints from workers and a referral from the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents grocery store workers. The investigators reportedly determined the employer did not consistently inform workers of their rights to supplemental paid sick leave if affected by COVID-19.
In some instances, sick workers were reportedly told to come to work until they received their test results even when they had COVID-19 symptoms. To cover isolation time, some workers were told to apply for unemployment or disability. Some were reportedly denied time off to isolate when members of their household had tested positive. Some workers were never paid for their time off due to COVID-19, according to the commissioner’s office.
The citations include $369,527 in wages, damages and interest for failing to provide leave under 2020 COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave for food sector workers, and $42,473 in wages, damages and interest for failing to provide leave under 2021 COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave for employers with 26 or more employees. In addition, $752,500 was assessed for nonpayment or late payment of supplemental paid sick leave.
The 2021 supplemental paid sick leave law went into effect on March 29 and is retroactive to Jan. 1. It requires that California workers are provided up to two weeks of supplemental paid sick leave if they are affected by COVID-19. Among the updates in the legislation, leave time also applies to attending a COVID-19 vaccine appointment and recovering from symptoms related to the vaccine. The law expired September 30. Small businesses employing 25 or fewer workers are exempt from the law but may offer supplemental paid sick leave and receive a federal tax credit, if eligible.
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