New California Laws Impacting Employees in 2020

April 15, 2020

Several changes have taken place in California during the first few months of 2020. The pandemic has non-essential workers staying at home for as long as it is deemed necessary. While coronavirus has taken over the media and people’s lifestyles, there have also been several changes to employment laws. You may not even realize these changes to California employment laws have taken place.

What changes have already taken place? Are any changes to employment laws still coming up? Here’s what you need to know about laws that may be impacting you.

An Extension on the Deadline to File Discrimination Complaints

The #MeToo scandals took the nation by storm in 2019. As a result, better protections were put into place for men and women who want to file discrimination complaints. Under former laws, employees had a year to file a discrimination complaint. Under the changes in California Assembly Bill 9, employees now have up to three years to file a claim.

The Reclassification of Independent Contractors

Under California Assembly Bill, employers who claim to hire independent contractors must prove the workers meet the requirements to be classified as independent contractors. These requirements are known as the “ABC Test” and include:

  • The worker is not under the direction or control of the employer in terms of work performance.
  • The worker does work that is outside the normal scope of the employer’s business.
  • The worker works independently in a business, occupation, or trade that’s the same nature as the work that’s being completed.

If an independent contractor is required to work for the company in a way that goes against the ABC Test, that worker is an employee and not an independent contractor and must be employed with the legal hourly wage and benefits.

Law Changes for Nursing Moms

Senate Bill No. 142 was approved on October 10, 2019. Current laws require employers to give qualifying employees at least one rest period during a workday. For women who need to express their milk because they’re breastfeeding, the old law required them to provide use of a private room, other than a bathroom, in order to do that. Employers who violate that faced a $100 civil penalty.

The new bill requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide a clean lactation room that’s equipped with a sink and refrigerator. The room must have a table or desk with space for personal items and a breast pump. It has to have a chair and be safe from any hazardous materials. Employers cannot discriminate against women who request special accommodations. If the room is used for other purposes, a woman’s need to express her milk always takes top priority over other purposes.

Private Child Care Workers May Now Bargain Collectively

More than 40,000 workers who provide child care to families receiving state assistance are now allowed to negotiate for fair wages and healthcare benefits with the California Human Resources department. It allows unions to represent child care workers.

Organ Donors Receive Extended Leave

Under current California employment laws, organ donors receive up to 30 days of unpaid leave. The new law went into effect on January 1, 2020. Employees who are organ donors now receive an additional 30 days maximum under California Assembly Bill 1223. To qualify, employees must provide medical paperwork verifying that the organ donation is medically necessary.

An End to Discrimination Based on Hairstyles

Last July, California’s Governor Newsom signed the CROWN Act into law. This act is an addition to discrimination laws. The new law protects people from discrimination due to their hairstyles. People who wear specific hairstyles like braids, locks, or twists are protected. It also protects people with natural hair textures that some people discriminate against. Employers can no longer demand an employee shave off locks or braids to get a job.

Whistleblower Protections Cover New Areas

California has whistleblower protections in place for many employers and situations. One that took place in 2020 covers patients’ rights advocates from having to disclose confidential information to legal entities or government agencies. If the patients’ advocate feels the information could jeopardize a patients’ rights, the employee doesn’t have to reveal anything and is free of retaliation for making that decision.

A Ban on Forced Arbitration

Employers cannot force their employees to go through arbitration. If an employee refuses to sign an arbitration agreement, the employer cannot fire or threaten the employee. Employees have the right to seek legal advice outside of the company’s legal or HR department.

Publicly Traded Companies Must Have a Minimum of One Female on the Board of Directors

When Senate Bill 826 was enacted in 2019, publicly traded companies had to have at least one woman on their board of directors by January. This is the first part of this bill. Companies with five directors must have two women on their boards and those with six must have three women. Companies that fail to meet these requirements can be fined up to $100,000.

Workers’ Compensation for First Responders Suffering From PTSD

First responders see a lot of alarming situations in their careers. Senate Bill No. 542 allows for first responders like firefighters or police officers the right to seek workers’ compensation when they’re suffering from PTSD. For now, this law remains in place through January 1, 2025. There is the chance it will be extended, but for now, this employment law change is set to last for five years.

Minimum Wage Increase

Effective January 1, 2020, the minimum wage increased to $12 an hour for companies with 25 employees or less. For companies with more than 25 employees, the hourly minimum wage increased to $13 an hour. Each year, the minimum wage increase will go up by another $1 per hour ending in 2023 when it’s at $15 an hour. If an employer refuses to pay the new minimum wage, you can file a claim with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement or seek an attorney who specializes in employment law.

The attorneys at Shegerian Conniff specialize in several areas of law. From sexual harassment complaints to unlawful terminations, we’re happy to discuss your situation and help you understand your rights. We’re here for you 24/7. Request your free, confidential consultation by calling (310) 322-7500 or completing the online “Contact Us” form.