State Disability Insurance (“SDI”): Your Legal Rights

What is State Disability Insurance (“SDI”)?

State Disability Insurance (“SDI”) is a California state program administered by the Employment Development Department (“EDD”).  SDI provides partial wage replacement when workers are unable to perform their regular or customary work due to physical and mental injuries, illnesses, and other health conditions.

Who is covered by the SDI program?

Almost all workers in California are covered by the program, and may receive benefits if they meet the eligibility requirements.  However, workers in certain jobs cannot get SDI, such as certain domestic workers, independent contractors, election campaign workers, and student workers working for their school. A few employers are permitted to opt out of SDI and to offer comparable benefits through a private plan.  If you are unsure if your employer participates in the SDI program, ask your HR department or manager for information.

What are the requirements for receiving SDI benefits?

To receive SDI benefits, you must have a “disability,” as defined below, and be under the ongoing care of a licensed health care provider or authorized religious practitioner. You must apply promptly, have been working or looking for work when the disability began, and have sufficient past earnings in your “base period.”

What is a “disability” for purposes of SDI??

A “disability” is any mental or physical condition that stops you from performing your usual work (or, if you are unemployed, a condition that stops you from being able to look for work) for more than one week. Almost any health condition may be an SDI disability, including physical illness, mental illness, injuries, surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, and being in treatment for drug or alcohol abuse.  A licensed health care professional (or an authorized religious practitioner) must sign a form stating that your disability is preventing you from working.

What if I am out of work when I become disabled?

A person who is unemployed may become “disabled” and entitled to SDI.  As long as you were actively looking for work when your disability began, and you have earnings in your base period, you can seek benefits.

How do I apply for SDI?

The fastest and easiest way to file a claim is online through the EDD’s website, You can also file your SDI claim by mail. You will have to request that a copy of the application be mailed to you via the EDD website or by calling the EDD at 1-800-480-3287 [Eng.] or 1-866-658-8846 [Spanish]. Once you complete the application, you should mail it to the EDD office closest to your residence.

What is the time limit for applying?

You must apply for SDI within 49 days of the date your disability stopped you from working or looking for work.  However, if you miss the deadline, you might still be eligible for SDI if you have a good reason for being late. For example, if you misunderstood something that the EDD told you on the phone and didn’t realize you were eligible for SDI until after the deadline had passed, your application will probably be accepted.

What is a “base period”?

The “base period” is the one-year period that began about 15 to 17 months before the date of your application for SDI benefits.  To find the base period for your SDI claim, use the following table:

If you filed your claim in …Your base period is the 12-month period ending the previous …
January, February, MarchSeptember 30
April, May, JuneDecember 31
July, August, SeptemberMarch 31
October, November, DecemberJune 30

Each base period is divided into three-month time periods called “quarters.”  To be eligible for SDI benefits, you must have earned at least $300 in one of the quarters of your base period.

What if I don’t have money in my base period because I was unemployed before I became disabled?

There are two rules that may help you if you do not have earnings in your base period due to unemployment:

First, if you have an unexpired claim for unemployment insurance benefits when you are seeking SDI, then you may use the base period you used for your unemployment insurance claim.

Second, if you were unemployed during any quarter of your base period – meaning out of work for 60 or more days and looking for work – you may disregard that quarter and begin your base period three months earlier than the period set forth in the above chart.  For each quarter you were unemployed, you may go back another quarter.

How much will I receive from SDI?

Your benefit amount is calculated based on the amount of earnings you had in the highest-earning quarter of your base period, and is about 60-70 percent (depending on income) of your regular earnings.  In 2018, the maximum amount of SDI you can receive is $1,216 per week.   SDI payments are processed every two weeks.

The entire amount you receive in SDI benefits from a single claim may not exceed the total amount of wages you earned during your base period.

When will I receive my first SDI check?

Every claim for SDI has a seven-day, unpaid waiting period.  Most benefits are issued within two weeks after a properly completed claim is received.

May I use my vacation or sick pay to cover the seven-day waiting period?


May I collect unemployment insurance benefits (“UI”) at the same time I’m collecting SDI?

No. If you are ready and able to work but can’t find a job, then UI is the right program for you. If you cannot work at your regular job due to a disability or illness, then SDI is the right program for you.

If I’m injured on the job, am I eligible to collect SDI?

In general, no.  If you’re injured on the job and cannot work, you should qualify for temporary income replacement through Workers’ Compensation.

There are two exceptions.  First, if the amount of money paid to you from your Workers’ Compensation benefits is less than what SDI benefits would pay, then you may make a claim for SDI to cover the difference.  Second, if there is a delay in your Workers’ Compensation application (for instance, if your employer disputes your eligibility, or if you are denied and appeal) you may apply for SDI benefits until the dispute is settled.

If your Workers’ Compensation claim is later approved, you will have to pay back the SDI you received so that you don’t get “double” benefits for the same period of time. If you receive both Workers’ Compensation and SDI benefits for the same injury, be sure that you keep the EDD updated on your Workers’ Compensation claim and the Workers’ Compensation carrier updated on your SDI claim, so that you can avoid an “overpayment.”

My employer offers private, short-term disability insurance (“STD”) covering part of my pay. May I also make a claim for SDI?

Typically, yes.  If the benefits are “integrated,” the EDD will pay you an amount for SDI, and your employer or its insurance carrier will pay you an additional amount to cover some or all of the difference between SDI and your full wages.

If you don’t know whether your employer “integrates” benefits with the EDD, ask your HR department or manager for information.

I have some vacation and sick days. May I use my vacation or sick days at the same time I receive SDI?

You may receive vacation pay and SDI at the same time.

You may not receive full sick pay and SDI at the same time.  You may receive partial sick pay to cover some or all of the difference between SDI and your full wages.  If you are uncertain, you should report to EDD any pay you receive from your employer.

Because of my disability, I must work reduced hours for reduced pay. May I make a claim for SDI?

Yes.  If you have lost wages due to your disability, but are still working, you may make a claim for benefits based on the income you are losing due to your reduced schedule.  You must meet all other requirements.

I am self-employed. Am I covered by SDI?

Self-employed individuals are only covered by the SDI program if they have enrolled in “Disability Insurance Elective Coverage” with EDD and paid the premiums.  Usually you become eligible for benefits after six months of elective coverage.  However, if you worked as an employee prior to your elective coverage, you may have a base period from that employment.

Am I eligible for SDI benefits if I am undocumented, or was undocumented during my base period?

Yes. If you are otherwise qualified, you cannot be denied benefits because you are or were undocumented. You paid into the program and have a right to collect your benefits.

How long will I receive SDI?

You will receive SDI benefits for as long as you remain disabled, as defined, up to a maximum of 52 weeks. However, in some cases a person who is otherwise qualified might not receive a full year of SDI because they do not have enough money in their “account” for a full year of benefits. You will receive a statement from the EDD when you apply telling you how much money is in your reserve account.

What if I attempt to return to work, but I end up needing to go out on disability again?

If you return to work and are able to perform your regular or customary job for more than 60 days, then your disability benefit period is considered ended.  If you stop working again due to disability, you must file a new claim for SDI, and re-establish your eligibility for benefits as of the date of the new claim. If you are eligible for SDI as of the date of your new claim, you are entitled to a new benefit period of up to 52 weeks.

If you return to work for more than 60 days, but do not perform your regular or customary work due to your disability – for example, you work only light duty or only part-time – you may be able to continue your prior disability claim. You will need to show EDD that you did not perform your regular or customary work when you attempted to return to work.

If you return to work for fewer than 60 days, and stop working due to the same disability, you are considered to be within the same disability benefits period. You may continue receiving benefits under your original claim and the 7-day waiting period required by these claims will be waived.

22. What if my disability lasts longer than 52 weeks?

If your disability is expected to or does continue past one year, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) or Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), depending on the type of disability and how severe it is. See our fact sheet “Short-Term and Long-Term Disability Benefit Programs” for more information on SSDI and SSI.

In addition, some employers provide private insurance, called Long Term Disability Insurance (“LTD”) to their employees with long-term disabilities. If you believe you may be covered by LTD, you should contact your employer to find out about benefits and eligibility and to request a copy of the “Summary Plan Description.”