I'm Lucy, and I'd be happy to answer your questions today. I'm sorry to hear about your situation.
Under California law, paid time off is wages that have been earned. That means they any remaining PTO or sick leave must be paid out at the end of employment. However, sick leave provided under the state's sick leave statute does not have to be paid out when an employee leaves. It sounds like they're calling all vacation time sick leave in order to avoid having to pay it out, as if they're trying to get around the requirement that they pay out vacation time. The Department of Labor may be interested to know about these policies.
Employers must allow employees to carry over up to 24 hours of sick leave at the end of each year. Cal. Labor Code, Section 246. When someone takes the leave, they're required to be paid at their normal rate of pay. However, since the law doesn't require sick leave to be paid out at all, there's nothing in the statute about the rate that must be used. If the same rate is used for everyone, it's probably allowed. Still, I'm concerned by their decision to give employees far more time off than required by the sick leave policy, call it sick leave, and then let people use it for vacations. It seems as if the DoL would say they have to pay you for at least some of that time as vacation time, not real sick leave.
Charter schools are exempt from a number of state and federal laws, however, there is nothing that exempts them from the Labor code.
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