• Sasha Struthers

Updated: September 2020's 6 New Laws California Employers Need to Know

Governor Newsom has signed some heavy hitting employment bills this month. Here is a summary of the new laws.

1. AB 685- Employers must report COVID 19 exposure to employees, subcontractors and local health agencies.

Effective- January 1, 2021.

If an employer receives notice of potential exposure of COVID 19 in the workplace the employer must notify all employees and subcontractors in writing within 1 business day of the potential exposure. An employer is on notice if the employer receives information about a "qualifying individual" that may increase the chances of exposure to other employees. A qualifying individual is defined as any person who:

(1) has a laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19;

(2) are diagnosed with COVID-19 by a licensed health care provider;

(2) is under an order to isolate due to COVID-19 by a public health official; or

(3) have died due to COVID-19 as determined by a county public health department.

The notice must also include:

  • Information about the CDC guidelines for disinfection and safety measures that the employer will be taking;

  • Workers' Compensation benefits employee is entitled to;

  • All paid and unpaid leave afforded to the employee; and

  • Anti-retaliation and anti-discrimination protections.

Failure to comply can result in fines levied by Cal/OSHA starting from $12,471 for non-serious violation, $25,000 for a serious violation and $124,709 for repeated and willful violations.

Further, if there is a COVID 19 "outbreak" in the work place, an employer is responsible for notifying the local public health agency within 48 hours. An outbreak is defined as three or more laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 among workers who live in different households within a two-week period.

2. SB 1447- Employer tax credits for hiring employees.

Effective- Immediately

Employers will be given a tax credit of $1,000 per net increase in "qualified full time employees" hired to be used for the next five years, or through 2026, with a cap of $100,000 per business. A qualified employee is simply a full time employee receiving wages from a qualified business.

A "qualified small business" is an employer who meets both criteria:

(1) as of December 31, 2019 employed 100 or less employees; and

(2) 50% decrease in gross receipts comparing April 1-June 30, 2019 gross receipts with April 1-June 30, 2020 gross receipts.

Employers must fill out an application between December 1, 2020 and January 15, 2021. Application is through the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA).

3. SB 1159- Codifies the Governor's emergency order creating a disputable presumption that COVID 19 exposure was work related for a Workers' Compensation claim.

Effective- Immediately

Between July 6, 2020 through January 1, 2023, an employee who has suffered illness or death related to COVID 19 can file a Workers' Compensation claim with the presumption that the illness or death was a result of exposure to COVID 19 in the work place.

The presumption is “disputable” meaning an employer may dispute the presumption with evidence that:

(1) employer had measures in place to reduce potential transmission of COVID-19 in the employee’s place of employment; and/or

(2) the employee’s non-occupational risks of COVID-19 infection.

The presumption covers all employees who meet both criteria:

(1) tested positive for COVID 19 during an outbreak in the work place; and

(2) whose employer has 5 or more employees.

Outbreak is defined differently for this law than the above discussed AB 685. For this presumption an "outbreak" exists, if within 14 calendar days any of the following occurs:

(1) if the employer has 100 employees or fewer at a specific place of employment, 4 employees test positive for COVID-19;

(2) if the employer has more than 100 employees at a specific place of employment, 4 percent of the number of employees who reported to the specific place of employment test positive for COVID-19; or

(3) a specific place of employment is ordered to close by a local public health department, the State Department of Public Health, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or a school superintendent due to a risk of infection with COVID-19.

Further, if an employer knows or should reasonably know that an employee has COVID 19, the employer must report such information to their claims administrator within 3 days, including the following information:

(1) an employee has tested positive. Employer many only provide personally identifiable information regarding the employee who tested positive for COVID-19 if the employee asserts the infection is work related or has filed a claim form pursuant to Section 5401;

(2) the date the employee tested positive;

(3) the address or addresses of the employee’s specific place of employment during the 14-day period preceding the date of the employee’s positive test; and

(4) the highest number of employees who reported to work at the employee’s specific place of employment in the 45-day period preceding the last day the employee worked at each specific place of employment.

4. SB 1383- Employers with 5 or more employees must now provide job-protected, unpaid family leave to employees.

Effective- January 1, 2021

Previously, only employers with 20 or more employees were required to provide job-protected unpaid leave to employees. Starting January 1, 2021, employers must allow employees to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid protected leave during any 12-month period for one of the following reasons:

(1) to bond with a new child of the employee; or

(2) to care for themselves or a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or domestic partner.

Job protections means, the employer must guarantee employment to that employee in the same or comparable position when the leave is over and the employee desires to return to work.

The above laws are the latest and I anticipate not to be the last of new employment laws. Given COVID 19, employers are going to see an overlap of laws that provide employees varying degrees of protection. Should you have an questions about COVID 19 in the workplace, leaves related or unrelated to COVID 19 or any other questions pertaining to handling employment issues as they arise, you should reach out to an employment attorney, like myself, to avoid falling into one of the numerous liability traps in California employment law. You may reach me at 818-306-0686 | sasha@struthers.legal

Visit my website and subscribe to my newsletter to get up-to date information on employment laws. You can also follow me on Twitter @Struthers_Legal for tips and law updates.

5. SB 973- Employers with 100+ employees must file an annual pay report with the DFEH.

Effective- Immediately, First report due March 31, 2021

On or before March 31, 2021, and every year after, employers with 100 or more employees, must submit a pay data report covering 2020, that is searchable, to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) which includes the number of employees by race, ethnicity, and sex, including W-2 earnings and hours worked for all employees, for the following job positions:

  • Executive or Senior Level Officials and Managers;

  • First or Mid-Level Officials and Managers;

  • Professionals;

  • Technicians;

  • Sales Workers;

  • Administrative Support Workers;

  • Craft Workers;

  • Operatives;

  • Laborers and Helpers; and

  • Service Workers.

6. AB 2992- Employers with 25+ employees must provide protected leave to employees who are crime victims.

Effective- January 1, 2021

Employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, physical injury, mental injury, threat of physical injury, or whose immediate family member died due to a crime are entitled to protected leave to seek judicial relief, including restraining orders.

Employees are not required to prove a crime any one was arrested, prosecuted or convicted of the crime. The crime can be a public offense, regardless of where it took place, or a misdemeanor or felony if committed in California by a competent adult. Employee is not required to give advance notice, but must submit in writing either signed by the employee or someone on behalf of the employee that the employee is seeking judicial and/or medical help as a result of the crime within a reasonable time after the absence. No police report is required.

Immediate family member is broad and includes, foster children, adopted children, and domestic partners, regardless of registration or marriage.

Further, employers must advise employees of this right on or before January 1, 2021. Employers should advise employees in writing and update any prior written policies it had related to this type of leave.

California carved out further exemptions to its AB 5 independent contractor law, which I wrote a separate post on here. If you have any questions about these new laws you may reach me by phone at 818-306-0686 or by email at sasha@struthers.legal

Visit my website and subscribe to my newsletter to get up-to date information on employment laws. You can also follow me on Twitter @Struthers_Legal for tips and law updates.

The information in this post is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this post should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.