This appears to be the opposite of the usual situation... Can my California employer require me to use accrued sick leave rather than work remotely while I am recuperating? I was working full-time remotely until my employer told me it would no longer be allowed. If I am able to work, just not able to commute into the office, and am only not working on my employer's order, should that come out of my sick time?
Can my California employer require me to use accrued sick leave rather than work remotely while I am recuperating?
I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on television.
But, barring something to the contrary contained in your contract, it is my understanding that your California employer can require indeed you to work in the office, rather than remotely. Yahoo (headquartered in Sunnyvale, CA) reversed their remote work policy not too long ago.
And if you cannot come into the office for some reason, and aren't permitted to work remotely, it's my understanding that your employer can indeed force you to take a day off - using up accrued vacation time, personal time, or sick time as dictated by the rules in your company.
If I am able to work, just not able to commute into the office, and am only not working on my employer's order, should that come out of my sick time?
Should is a personal opinion.
Some companies have blanket PTO days, where accrued days off cover vacation, personal time, and sick time. If your company has such a policy, and doesn't permit working remotely, I feel that is where your "unable to work" days should come from.
I am happy that my company fosters flexible work arrangements, and ad-hoc remote work. I personally believe that for trusted knowledge/office workers, this is a proper policy - one that works out well for both the company and for the workers. I'm sad to hear that your company's policies have changed.
I did not verify with the California code, but have read it in the past. My answer is from what I remember.
If you wish to keep being employed and receive wages then you obviously have to do what your employer tells you, within reason and what is lawful. If they say you can no longer work from home then you have to work from the designated place of work, of course you can refuse, and they can fire you for no reason any time (you can also quit for no reason, any time).
Considering they changed the rule and you are no longer allowed to work from home, and you still do work from home, they can regard this as being absent without leave. Since you are not present at your workplace doing your job.
They offer you to use up your sick leave during your stay at home (I assume it's a medical reason preventing you from going to work). If you do that then make sure to not work, because you're having paid time off, or sick leave in this case. Take time to recover and rest. It is silly, to say the least, to work when on (sick) leave (I know many a fool does, and many people get stressed and burn outs, how surprising).
You can of course refuse to use the sick leave, and your employer can then consider this as being absent without leave, stop paying you for the days you are not at work, ignore the fact you could be working from home (since that is against the rules now) and eventually decide to fire you because you are not at work.
Don't think that just because you are working from home that it is by default considered work. It is only considered work as long as your employer thinks it is and since they decided to not allow work from home they would not consider it work, I would think.
...while I am recuperating?
I imagine it depends on what exactly you're recuperating from... and you don't need to tell us what that is.
In general when people are sick they might not be able to think clearly and so their work could be negatively impacted and that may be of concern. As a manager, I'd rather have someone take sick leave and recover so when they return to the office they can be productive.