At the end of the 2019-20 legislative session, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a number of new bills into law. Many of those bills tackled issues such as COVID-19: workers’ compensation, paid sick leave, workplace safety, leaves of absence, harassment protections and more. Below is a summary of the newest legislation affecting employers in California. Unless otherwise stated, the new laws take effect January 1, 2021.
Assembly Bill 685 – “COVID-19 Exposure Law”
AB 685 is new legislation that does two things: (1) establishes statewide occupational safety standards for how employers should handle potential exposure and confirmed COVID-19 cases in the workplace and; (2) provides the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) with expanded authority to enforce the new requirements and take action to protect employees, including shutting down worksites deemed to be an “imminent hazard” due to COVID-19 risk and imposing civil penalties on employers for non-compliance. The bill utilizes previously published Cal/OSHA guidelines for protecting workers from COVID-19 which formerly carried no legal obligation. These provisions will expire on January 1, 2023.
Assembly Bill 908 – “Pupils: extracurricular activities: work permits.”
AB 908 also does two things: (1) amends the Education Code to extend the probationary period for pupils who did not achieve satisfactory education progress in the previous grading period so that they remain eligible to participate in extracurricular activities through the end of the 2020/2021 school year and; (2) makes it easier for minors to obtain work permits during COVID-19-related school closures and allows for electronic submission of required documents. This bill was passed as an urgency statute and went into effect upon signing.
Assembly Bill 979 – “Corporations: boards of directors: underrepresented communities.”
AB 979 amends the Corporations Code to require publicly-held corporations with a principal executive office in California to have a minimum of one director from an underrepresented community no later than the close of the 2021 calendar year. By 2022, a corporate board with four to nine directors must have two directors from underrepresented communities, and a board with nine or more directors must have three directors from underrepresented communities. The bill defines a director from an underrepresented community as “an individual who self-identifies as Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian or Alaska Native, or who self-identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.”
Assembly Bill 1281 – “Privacy: California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018.”
(The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) gives California consumers rights over how and whether the personal data they provide to businesses is collected, retained and sold. Because the definitions contained within the legislation are broad, it also applies to employee data collected by employers for employment purposes. This is problematic for employers because employees could potentially request to have their personal information deleted, citing their rights under the CCPA. To address this issue, the Legislature passed AB 25 in 2019, largely exempting employee data from the CCPA’s requirements for one year. AB 1282 extends that exemption through January 1, 2022.
Assembly Bill 1512 – “Security officers: rest periods.”
AB 1512 amends the Labor Code to allow security guards registered under the Private Security Services Act working for employers registered under the same law to remain on the premises during rest periods and to remain on call during the rest period. If work interrupts the rest period, the security guard must be permitted to restart the rest period as soon as practicable.
Assembly Bill 1867 – “Small employer family leave mediation: handwashing: supplemental paid sick leave.”
AB 1867 expands supplemental paid sick leave for COVID-19-related reasons for certain employers not already covered by the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The supplemental paid sick leave portion of this law will expire when the FFCRA does (currently set to expire on December 31, 2020).
The law also mandates handwashing requirements for employers of “Food Sector Workers” and includes a small employer family leave mediation pilot program (for employers with 5 – 19 employees) which is designed to assist in the resolution of claims relating to non-compliance with expanded family and medical leave. AB 1867 took effect immediately upon being signed on September 9, 2020.
Assembly Bill 1947 – “Employment violation complaints: requirements: time.”
AB 1947 extends the time an individual can file a complaint of discrimination or retaliation with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). Under current law, workers alleging they were discriminated or retaliated against in violation of any law enforced by the DLSE have six months from the occurrence of the violation(s) to file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner. AB 1947 extends that time period to one year.
Assembly Bill 2017 – “Employee: sick leave: kin care.”
AB 2017 revises the Labor Code to clarify that the employee (not the employer) has the right to designate sick leave as kin care – or not.
Assembly Bill 2043 – “Occupational safety and health: agricultural employers and employees: COVID-19 response.”
AB 2043 requires Cal/OSHA to disseminate information on best practices for preventing COVID-19 infections to agricultural employers and employees, both in English and in Spanish. This law became effective upon signing on September 20, 2020 and only remains in effect until the end of the state of emergency.
Assembly Bill 2257 – “Worker classification: employees and independent contractors: occupations: professional services.”
AB 2257 makes some revisions and clarifications to last year’s classification bill, AB 5. While the framework set forth by AB 5 remains the same, AB 2257 makes some changes to existing exceptions and adds new ones. AB 2257 went into effect when it was signed on September 4, 2020. For a detailed review of AB 2257, stay tuned to the Emplicity blog or reach out to your HR representative.
Assembly Bill 2479 – “Rest periods: petroleum facilities: safety-sensitive positions.”
AB 2479 extends an existing on-call rest break exception for safety sensitive positions at petroleum facilities through January 1, 2026. Existing law was set to expire on January 1, 2021.
Assembly Bill 2537 – “Personal protective equipment: health care employees. “
AB 2537 requires public and private employers of workers in a “general acute care hospital” to supply “frontline nurses and healthcare workers treating patients” with personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as maintain a three-month stockpile of said PPE and provide inventory information to Cal/OSHA upon request.
Assembly Bill 2992 – “Employment practices: leave time.”
AB 2992 amends Sections 230 and 230.1 of the Labor Code to expand the prohibition on discrimination and retaliation against employees who are victims of crime or abuse when they take time off for judicial proceedings or to seek medical attention or related relief for domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or other crime that causes physical or mental injury.
Assembly Bill 3075 – “Wages: enforcement.”
AB 3075 amends several sections of the Corporations Code and Labor Code to essentially make a successor employer liable for its predecessor’s unpaid wage judgments. The law also sets forth specific criteria to establish successorship and authorizes local jurisdictions to enforce state labor standards requirements regarding payment of wages.
Assembly Bill 3175 – “Entertainment industry: age-eligible minors: training.”
AB 3175 amend the Labor Code to specify that a minor’s parent or legal guardian must accompany the minor during sexual harassment training and that adult must certify to the Labor Commissioner that the training was completed as specified. It also requires the training to be in the language understood by the participants whenever reasonably possible. This bill was an urgency statute that took effect on September 25, 2020.
Assembly Bill 3369 – “Entertainment industry: minors: discrimination and harassment prevention training.”
AB 3369 Amends the Government Code to ensure that minors in the entertainment industry receive appropriate training regarding sexual harassment (as outlined in AB 3175) and to avoid enforcing inconsistent policies between the Labor Code and the Government Code. This urgency bill took effect when signed on September 28, 2020.
Senate Bill 275 – “Health Care and Essential Workers: personal protective equipment.”
SB 275 amend the Health and Safety Code and Labor Code to require the State Department of Public Health to develop and maintain a stockpile of PPE, and, beginning January 1, 2023, mandate the development and maintenance of PPE stockpiles by certain employers for use in the event of a declared state of emergency.
Senate Bill 973 – “Employers: annual report: pay data.”
SB 973 creates new requirements for private employers with 100 or more employees that are already required by federal law to file an annual Employer Information Report (EEO-1). Under SB 973, the aforementioned employers must also submit a pay data report to the DFEH that contains information about their employees’ race, ethnicity and gender in various job categories (similar to the now-rescinded federal EEO-1 Component 2 report) on or before March 31, 2021. The new law also outlines authority given to the DFEH authority to receive, investigate, conciliate, mediate, and prosecute complaints alleging practices that are unlawful under discriminatory wage rate provisions.
Senate Bill 1159 – “Workers’ compensation: COVID-19: critical workers.”
SB 1159 establishes a “rebuttable workers’ compensation presumption” for workers that contract COVID-19 under certain conditions by first, codifying Newsom’s workers’ compensation executive order for workers who contracted COVID-19 between March 19, 2020, and July 5, 2020, and, second, creating a rebuttable presumption for first responders and health care personnel who contract COVID-19 after July 6, 2020. SB 1159 also creates an “outbreak” presumption for employers with five or more employees, covering workers who test positive for COVID-19 during an “outbreak” at the employee’s place of employment. SB 1159 was an urgency measure that went into effect September 17, 2020.
Senate Bill 1383 – “Unlawful employment practice: California Family Rights Act.”
SB 1383 significantly expands the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) coverage to include all employers with five or more employees. This change eliminates the need for the New Parent Leave Act (NPLA), but folds the remaining obligations of the NPLA into the new expanded CFRA. SB 1383 also expands the definition of “family members” beyond parent, spouse or child to also cover grandchildren, grandparents and siblings.
Senate Bill 1384 – “Labor Commissioner: financially disabled persons: representation.”
SB 1384 extends the authority of the Labor Commissioner to represent a claimant who is financially unable to represent themselves in a hearing where a court order has compelled arbitration to determine the claim and the commissioner has determined that the claim has merit. Existing law authorized the commissioner to represent a claimant in proceedings to appeal a wage claim award if the claimant couldn’t afford counsel. The law also requires that a petition to compel arbitration pursuant to specified statutes be served on the Labor Commissioner.
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