SAN DIEGO—A Southern California grocery chain has been cited by The California Labor Commissioner’s Office for failing to pay or delaying supplemental paid sick leave to 240 workers affected by COVID-19 at 38 stores, including three in San Diego County, the Office announced Oct. 26.
Bodega Latina, which does business as El Super, was cited over $1.16 million after an investigation 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,” according to the Labor Commissioner’s Office.
The violations led to citations at three locations in San Diego, Escondido, and Oceanside.
Some sick workers were told that they had to come into work even when they displayed COVID-19 symptoms until they received their test results.
In addition, those who needed to self-quarantine were told to apply for unemployment or disability benefits to cover their isolation time, while others were denied time off to isolate when members of their household tested positive for COVID-19, reported by the Labor Commissioner’s Office.
In July, the chain was cited for similar violations affecting 95 workers at three stores in Los Angeles, Lynwood, and Victorville. Labor Commissioner Lilia Garcia-Brower said that following the July citations, “we heard from additional workers who had their sick leave denied or delayed. We broadened the scope of our investigation to capture as many workers impacted by these violations as possible and provide them what they are due.”
The investigation began in Sept. 2020 following complaints from workers and a referral from the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents grocery store workers.
Workers were not consistently informed of their rights to supplemental paid sick leave if affected by COVID-19, according to the Labor Commissioner’s Office.
California’s Supplemental Paid Sick Leave law, which expired Sept. 30, required that California workers at businesses with more than 25 workers be provided up to two weeks of supplemental paid sick leave if they are affected by COVID-19.
The Labor Commissioner’s Office continues to enforce the law for any violations that occurred between Jan. 1, 2021, and Sept. 30, 2021, the period the law covered.
Garcia-Brower said, “Supplemental paid sick leave is a tool to protect our communities by stopping the spread of COVID-19 through the workplace.”