California State Disability Insurance

California’s State Disability Insurance program (SDI) insures employees for disabilities that prevent them from performing their regular employment, whether or not the injuries causing the disability or disabilities occur at work or are work-related. To qualify for the program, employees must be unable to work for at least 8 consecutive days due to a disability. Benefits apply to qualified employees working for a California employer of any size.

Who pays for SDI?

Eligible workers pay into the program through payroll taxes (a minimum of 18 months of payments is required to receive the maximum amount of benefits).

California SDI Eligibility

California SDI defines “disability” as a mental or physical illness that prevents an employee from performing work duties. Pregnancy, childbirth, elective cosmetic procedures, and even government quarantine all qualify. No employee can be denied SDI because of a pre-existing medical condition or because their job is dangerous or has associated health risks. Employees do not have to be U.S. citizens to qualify.

SDI does not provide coverage for railroad workers, some non-profit employees, most government employees, and employees claiming religious exemptions. A worker is eligible for SDI regardless of the time they have worked at their company if he or she satisfies the following three requirements within the year before the claim:

  1. is unable to work for at least 8 consecutive days due to disability;
  2. is actively seeking work or has a job when disability occurs;
  3. has earned at least $300 within the year prior to the quarter in which SDI premiums are deducted and an SDI claim filed.

Workers who are unsure whether they qualify should file anyway; the Employment Development Department (EDD)will evaluate their situation.

SDI Benefits

SDI benefits include up to 52 weeks of partial pay at approximately 55 percent of a worker’s normal earnings. The minimum amount of SDI paid is $50 per week; the maximum (in 2008) is $917 and the sum increases each year. Pregnant women can qualify for SDI for 4 weeks before giving birth and 6 weeks thereafter, in addition to the option of an additional 6 weeks of Paid Family Leave (PFL). For more information about taking time off for pregnancy reasons in California, see California Pregnancy Disability Leave and California Unpaid Family Leave.

Even uneventful and uncomplicated pregnancies and childbirths are covered under this provision of SDI. SDI benefits are not available until a consecutive 7-day waiting period has elapsed. Applications are usually processed within 14 days of receipt.

SDI Limitations

California law limits SDI coverage. For example, workers on unemployment benefit are not eligible at all, while workers receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits, paid sick leave from their employers, or Paid Family Leave (PFL) may receive reduced SDI. Your employer will require medical certification to prove your disability and its impact on your availability to work.

Returning to Work

You can receive SDI more than once during a calendar year and return to work between periods of SDI leave. Employers, however, are not required to continue providing health or other benefits or to hold your position in the company while you are away from work.

Your job security, on the other hand, may be covered under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA); check with these laws to find out more about your right to return to work after SDI.

Filing an SDI Claim

If you want to file an SDI claim, get in touch with the California Employment Development Department (EDD) at 1-800-480-3287 or visit the EDD website and request or download a claim form. You must mail your claim form within 49 days of your disability; late claims can cause penalties and lost benefits unless you can demonstrate a good reason for the delay.

If you are denied SDI benefits, contact SDI at 1-800-480-3287 or 1-866-658-8846 (En Español) for an explanation of the reason your claim was denied. You may be eligible to appeal your denied claim. You may also want to get in touch with an California employment attorney. Visit AttorneyPages to find one in your area.