Oakland passes emergency sick leave during coronavirus pandemic

FILE PHOTO: Aerial view of Alameda and Oakland Harbor

The Oakland City Council approved emergency sick leave legislation Tuesday night that would provide 80 hours of sick pay.

The council voted unanimously, 8-0, to pass a measure by Council member Sheng Thao.

Oakland becomes the fourth city in the state — after Los Angeles, San Jose and San Francisco — to enact emergency sick leave, the East Bay Times reported.

The legislation would apply to employees who are isolated or quarantined because of a public health order, told to self-quarantine, have symptoms of coronavirus or because of underlying health conditions. It would also cover those caring for others who are quarantined, or caring for children if their school or daycare has been closed.

Thao said the ordinance will ensure that “every full-time worker has 80 hours of sick pay compensated at their normal wage level so if they are exposed to COVID-19, they can take the time to get better without financial hardship. By allowing workers exposed to COVID-19 to self-isolate without fear of financial hardship, this ordinance will also slow the spread of the virus.”

The measure goes into effect immediately, applying to workers at companies with more than 500 employees. 

"When Congress took action to expand paid sick leave for workers, they left out more than 50 percent of our workforce by exempting the largest employers. This carveout for corporate America during a time of crisis is inexcusable," San Francisco Supervisor Gordon Mar said just before his city approved a nearly identical action.

Oakland's legislation also applies to gig workers and other workers not classified as full-time employees, like Uber and Lyft drivers.

Companies with fewer than 50 employees are exempt,  which comprise about 90 percent of Oakland's business. Also exempt are nonprofits, health care, and businesses offering 160 hours of paid leave and access to 80 hours of leave.

Thao's legislation only covers city businesses and not Oakland residents who may work in other cities such as Emeryville, Alameda or San Leandro.