New Employment Laws Proposed in California

September 21, 2020

New laws are passed each year in California. Even more enter the system as bills where they’re discussed and voted on. Some pass and become laws, but others never get far. While businesses, agencies, and schools have all been on hiatus while the nation faced a major pandemic, the government kept at it.

Many of the bills in the works are linked to changes that COVID-19 has brought to workers and employers. Others are simply strengthened rules on bills that are already on the books. Here are some of the bills that may soon become new employment laws in California.

Assembly Bill 196 and 664

Two bills establish protections that make sure workers with coronavirus qualify for workers’ compensation.

AB 196 takes Governor Newsom’s Executive Order regarding COVID-19 being covered by workers’ compensation. With this bill, any essential services worker who is diagnosed with COVID-19 automatically gets workers’ compensation starting on the last day worked and extending for 90 days. Some workers are excluded because they are covered under another new bill.

AB 664 covers specific essential workers (healthcare workers, firefighters, forestry workers, police officers, sheriffs, prison guards/correctional officers, peace officers, deputies, etc.) from not just infection but also exposure and possible infection that requires quarantine. If a police officer was exposed to someone testing positive for COVID-19, the police officer would get workers’ compensation for the time off of work while quarantined.

Assembly Bill 398

Known as the Headcount Tax, AB 398 is a tax that large businesses would pay per employee for a certain number of years. It’s also been named the “Business Killer,” as large private and for-profit businesses with more than 500 employees would need to pay a tax of $275 per employee. Taxes collected with this tax would go to the COVID-19 Local Government and School Recovery and Relief Fund.

Assembly Bill 685

AB 685 is also a result of the pandemic. With AB 685, businesses would have to have a plan of action for employees who are exposed to or contract the virus. It would require all employees to be notified. Union and other representatives would need to be told, as would Cal-OSHA and both the country and state departments of health. Affected employees would need to be informed of what happens next and what paid and unpaid options are for time off. It also requires a plan for disinfecting and cleaning the business.

Assembly Bill 1066

Starting January 1, 2021, AB 1066 sets a deadline for employers to provide records and other information regarding unemployment compensation requests by employees. Employers have 10 days to respond to the initial notice. If they do not, the employee’s request will be approved for full benefits.

Assembly Bill 1947

This bill extends the amount of time employees have to file some discrimination claims from six months to one year. It also enables employees to make their employer pay for the attorney’s fees if they win a retaliation case and win.

Assembly Bill 2992

For victims of stalking, domestic abuse/violence, or some other crime, their employer cannot discriminate against, fire, or retaliate against that victim for asking for time off or a leave of absence. While there is currently a similar law in place, it only applies to businesses that have a minimum of 25 employees. The updated law protects all workers.

Assembly Bill 2999

AB 2999 provides protections to employees that need to take time off to help a child or family member who is domestic abuse or sexual assault victims. The enhanced bill tacks on a law that would require employers with a minimum of 25 employees to give up to 10 days of unpaid bereavement leave to a spouse/domestic partner, sibling, child/grandchild, or parent/grandparent. Businesses with fewer than 25 employees would have to give 3 days of unpaid leave.

Assembly Bill 3056 and Senate Bill 1399

This bill protects employees of distribution centers and warehouses who work by quotas rather than a set hourly wage. For workers who must meet quotas, bathroom breaks, meal/drink breaks, time to wash hands properly, and rest breaks must not be included in the quota. For example, a worker who is supposed to fill X number of orders per hour cannot have a 15-minute break included as part of that hour. If employers do not deduct these breaks from time worked, they face fines of $250 per employee for a first-time offense and $1,000 per employee after that.

SB 1399 also touches on quotas, but this bill is specific to those in the garment industry. Companies would no longer be able to set per-piece wages and would also protect against wage violations.

Assembly Bill 3075

AB 3075 does a few things when it comes to incorporations and wages. Articles of incorporation have to be filed with the state and cannot be filed by owners, directors, officers, or other agents acting on the behalf of an employer who has an outstanding judgment against them. If a company takes over a company, they are liable for wage and labor violations for the company that they purchased. It also allows local jurisdictions to enforce rules related to payments of wages.

Assembly Bill 3216

Employees who have worked for an employer for 12 months, have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours, and are employed with a company that has at least 50 employers within 75 miles gain protections due to the pandemic. AB 3216 adds seven days of sick leave during a public health emergency. It also makes it mandatory that an employer who is starting to rehire offers positions to qualified workers who were laid off before turning to the general workforce.

Senate Bill 275

Personal protective equipment (PPE) would have to be stocked for state of emergencies for workers in the healthcare industry. The PPE cannot be expired and has to be stocked well enough to cover 30, 60, or 90 days of use. Businesses that are not in compliance could be fined $25,000.

Senate Bill 729

Originally, SB 729 was going to give workers in the food industry breaks every 30 minutes to thoroughly wash their hands. It was changed to cover meals and rest breaks for remote workers.

Senate Bill 973

If this bill passes, it will require private businesses with a minimum of 100 employers to provide wage and employment information to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Information that must be provided would include ethnicity, race, gender, and the hourly wage or salary and would be used to establish ways to identify pay discrimination and enforce discrimination protections.

Senate Bill 1102

California already has a Wage Theft Prevention Act. This would add protections for farmworkers. It would also require employers to share information regarding disasters and state emergencies in counties where employees work. If an employee questions the information or notice provided by the employer, that employer cannot retaliate.

Senate Bill 1383

The California Family Rights Act protects workers employed at businesses with 50 employees or more. SB 1383 changes that rule to cover employers with 5 or more employees. If it passes, employees working in qualifying companies would get up to 12 weeks of protected family and/or medical leave.

Senate Bill 1384

With SB 1384, the Labor Commissioner could represent people who lack the finances to represent themselves in employment law complaints. Currently, the law allows the Labor Commission to represent people in appeals. This law opens it up to any claim that’s been determined to have merit.

When you feel you’re the victim of unfair business practices, you need an expert on your side. Shegerian Conniff is the employment law expert you need. Consultations are free, so don’t let your personal finances keep you from seeking fair treatment. Call us for expert advice.