On the San Francisco ballot in the upcoming June 2016 election, there is Proposition E, which aims to bring city law regarding sick leave into conformity with a state law of the same nature passed in 2014.

However, shouldn't the state law simply override any non-conforming local law? I would assume that California has a state equivalent to the U.S. Constitution's "Supremacy Clause." Is that not correct?


However, shouldn't the state law simply override any non-conforming local law?

It depends what you mean by "override". If the two conflict, the state law probably wins. But what about cases where they don't conflict?

For example, if San Francisco has an $9 an hour minimum wage and the state has a $10 an hour minimum wage, complying with the state law will automatically comply with the local law. Conversely, if the state has an $8 an hour minimum wage, complying with the local law will automatically comply with the state law.

They don't conflict, even though they are different. Yes, one is tougher than the other, so everyone has to comply with the tougher one. But that doesn't prevent compliance with the other.

In this particular case, there seem to be a couple reasons to make changes:

Employers must comply with both the PSLO and the state law. The City can enforce only the PSLO.

Currently the city can only enforce its own law (the PSLO). Enforcement of the state law is left up to the state. By changing the local law, local enforcement will be able to enforce the law more like the state law.

Proposition E would add provisions to the PSLO consistent with broader state law so that

  • employees would begin to accrue paid sick leave under the PSLO on the first day of employment;
  • employees who leave a job and are rehired by the same employer within a year would have their unused PSLO sick leave reinstated.

An employee could use paid sick leave for the broader purposes authorized by state law. Specifically, in addition to current uses

  • an employee could use PSLO paid sick leave for legal or other purposes when the employee is a victim of domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault;
  • employees could use PSLO paid sick leave to care for a biological, adoptive or foster parent, step-parent, or guardian of their spouse or registered partner, or the employee’s guardian when the employee was a minor.

Under Proposition E, if an employer provides an employee with three days of paid sick leave at the beginning of the year under state law, those three days would be treated as an “advance” on paid sick leave not yet accrued under the PSLO.

The state law allows sick leave to be used for things that the current local law does not. But the local law is more generous about the accrual of sick leave. This is confusing for businesses trying to comply, as they have to track local sick leave and state sick leave. The local leave has more hours but can be used for fewer things. These changes allow them to just track one kind of sick leave. So the generous local hours and the generous state uses. This makes the local law strictly stronger than the state law, which is easier to enforce.

This proposal requires the City to provide businesses with a single poster, combining notice requirements of state and local laws, pending approval by the state. It also provides workers notice of their sick leave balances on the wage statement they already receive.

So each employer is required to put up a poster showing the state guidelines. Current law also has them putting up a poster showing the local guidelines. Under this proposal, the local and state guidelines could appear on a single poster with approval by state regulators (which they expect to get). Under current law, they would require two separate posters and two separate compliance mechanisms. So making the local law require them to be more generous is actually easier on most businesses.

There are very few cases where they could actually offer less leave under the current system but many cases where tracking that would be complicated. Since tracking is the part they have to do for all employees all the time whereas actually offering leave only needs to be done rarely, making tracking cheaper at the expense of offering more leave is generally cheaper for most businesses.


If you're looking for California's supremacy clause, the closest thing might be in Article XI, Section 7 of California's constitution:

A county or city may make and enforce within its limits all local, police, sanitary, and other ordinances and regulations not in conflict with general laws.

This implies that if a local ordinance IS in conflict with a state law, then the local law is not authorized by the state constitution.


A State Constitution is that State's, supreme law of the land, in Any conflict of laws.

Article 1, Section 24 declares this:

Rights guaranteed by this Constitution are not dependent on those guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

In criminal cases the rights of a defendant to equal protection of the laws, to due process of law, to the assistance of counsel, to be personally present with counsel, to a speedy and public trial, to compel the attendance of witnesses, to confront the witnesses against him or her, to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, to privacy, to not be compelled to be a witness against himself or herself, to not be placed twice in jeopardy for the same offense, and to not suffer the imposition of cruel or unusual punishment, shall be construed by the courts of this State in a manner consistent with the Constitution of the United States. This Constitution shall not be construed by the courts to afford greater rights to criminal defendants than those afforded by the Constitution of the United States, nor shall it be construed to afford greater rights to minors in juvenile proceedings on criminal causes than those afforded by the Constitution of the United States.

This declaration of rights may not be construed to impair or deny others retained by the people.

--In other words, a State Constitution is that State's, supreme law of the land since it was ratified by, and is, the will of the People.

It also means you can hold your State accountable to the literal terms in that social and written Contract.

States are prohibited from Impairing in the Obligation of Contracts.

  • This is interesting, but not really an answer to the question. Nothing in this addresses whether a city's law is automatically superseded by the state's, which is what the OP is asking about. – Bobson Jul 10 '16 at 16:03

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