Oakland City Hall. (Photo by gradientblue/Flickr)

The Oakland City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to extend an ordinance providing emergency paid sick leave to some workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The emergency ordinance went into effect immediately and aims to help minimize the spread of the coronavirus. It is especially relevant to low-wage, frontline workers during the pandemic who may feel compelled to work when they have the coronavirus if they don’t have paid sick leave.

“The very workers we depend on to navigate this crisis must be able to protect themselves and their families,” Councilmembers Dan Kalb and Sheng Thao said in a letter summarizing the ordinance.

Low-wage, frontline workers are less likely to comply with a 14-day quarantine period if they are not paid during that time and also tend to be people of color, a group disproportionately impacted by the virus.

“As we continue to face the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to center our policy on those being hurt most,” Thao said in a Twitter post Wednesday. “While we look to the Biden administration for support, the City of Oakland remains steadfast in its commitment to the working class.”

The vote extends an ordinance the City Council passed last May and is an expansion of the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which ended at the end of last year, except for tax credits that remain in place through March.

The federal law required certain businesses to give full-time employees 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus, care for a family member who was exposed, or care for a child whose school closed.

Under the Oakland law, employees are eligible to take sick leave and receive their full pay for each day of leave. The Oakland law also allows employees to take sick leave for additional reasons not allowed under the federal law.

Oakland’s ordinance also expands leave for employees of businesses with more than 500 employees, which the federal law excluded.

“This is a public health measure,” said Liana Molina, senior Oakland policy director for the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, a worker advocacy organization.

She said it requires a multi-pronged approach, and the Oakland ordinance removes the incentive for employees to work when they are sick with the coronavirus.

Employers with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from Oakland’s ordinance extension.

Los Angeles and San Jose have ordinances similar to the one enacted Tuesday in Oakland.

Keith Burbank is currently a fulltime reporter covering Alameda County and Oakland news for Bay City News. He has also worked on the Data Points project for Local News Matters, finding trends and stories about the region through data. In 2019, he was a California Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, producing a series about homeless deaths in Santa Clara County. He worked as a swing shift editor for the newswire for several years as well. Outside of journalism, Keith enjoys computer programming, math, economics and music.