Each year, California legislators move hundreds of bills into motion. This attempt to enact change in our laws usually results in a slew of new legislation at the beginning of every year. 2019 saw a myriad of shifts in the realm of employment law– and the ripple effect from these past few years continues to impact us now. As 2020 begins, California workers will be well-served by brushing up on some of the newest laws impacting their rights.
If you believe that your employer may be acting in violation of your rights, the most important step is to contact a seasoned employment law attorney. Only a legal professional can assist you in bringing a case and achieving compensation.
2020 Key Employment Law Changes in California
Freelancer and Contractor Laws: Tighter Restrictions (Maybe)
If you or anybody you know does freelance or contract work, you’ve likely heard plenty about AB 5 already. Often referred to as “the freelancer law,” this bill presents a serious piece of work to freelancers. The details are a little muddy– and are currently being hashed out in court– but here’s what we know for a fact so far:
- AB 5 established the “ABC test”
- This “test” is a set of parameters to help determine whether somebody should be labeled as an independent contractor rather than an employee
- The test essentially winds up categorizing far more workers as employees than it does as independent contractors
- Employers tend to dislike this because they are mandated to offer employees certain rights and protections
- Workers labeled employees gain access to improved benefits and more stable workplaces; many companies, however, are not interested in having actual employees
- The bill was aimed at gig workers, but is currently set to disproportionately impact contract and independent workers
AB 5 is one of the most fluid shifts currently happening within California’s employment law sphere. If you are an independent worker who works within the state, the best course of action likely involves speaking with an attorney and keeping an eye on developments in legislation. Nobody can predict how AB 5 will play out in the end.
California Paid Family Benefits: Extended from Six to Eight Weeks
Under SB-83, the state’s current Paid Family Leave (you may see it referred to as “PFL” in some documentation) is set to extend. Current benefits allow for six weeks of paid family benefits. This new amendment extends that timeframe to eight weeks.
Important factors to keep in mind:
- Only applies to claims that start on or after July 1, 2020
- Paid Family Leave is not a leave entitlement
- Some employees are eligible to take leave through paid sick leave or FMLA/CFRA laws; some are otherwise granted leave by their employers
- Only these employees are eligible to apply for wage replacement benefits through PFL
Expanded Lactation Accommodations
California appears to be working to make the state’s workplaces more family- and parent-friendly as a whole. Much like the improved paid family benefits mentioned above, the expanded lactation accommodations offered by SB 142 offer parents another way to put their families first.
SB 142 presents a number of requirements for employers:
- Employees must have access to lactation rooms or locations WHICH MUST…
- …be close to employees; work areas AND
- …be free from intrusion and shielded from view AND
- …have certain features (i.e. electricity)
- Employers must also provide other accommodations nearby
- Sink with running water
- Employers must create and implement lactation accommodation policies that detail…
- …employees’ rights to request lactation accommodation AND
- …how employees can make such requests AND
- …employees’ rights to file complaints with the Labor Commissioner in the event of a violation
Employees Now Eligible to Seek Penalty for Late Wages
AB 673 amends the California Labor Code. Before AB 673’s approval, the process of seeking penalties for late wages from an employer was not possible. This amendment means that:
- Penalties for late payment of wages may be recovered by the Labor Commissioner (as a civil penalty payable to the affected employee) OR
- …by the employee as a statutory penalty
An initial violation warrants a penalty of $100. After this point, subsequent violations incur a penalty of:
- $200 per failure to pay each employee PLUS
- …25% of the amount unlawfully withheld
Minimum Wage Raise of One Dollar
If you’ve worked minimum wage positions in California for some time, you’re probably already aware of the state’s increasing lower bar for pay. SB 3 raises the minimum wage throughout the state once again. Employees at companies with 25 or fewer workers will see $12 an hour; those who are employed by larger companies will make $13.
Serious Occupational Injuries Must Now be Reported Immediately
Those who work in notably dangerous industries (like the manufacturing, construction, or industrial sectors) may be most likely to be impacted by this change, but anybody can get hurt on the job.
AB 1804 mandates that employers report serious occupational injury or illness immediately through an online OSHA portal. This portal is not currently available; until its release, employers must make these reports through telephone or email. This injury or illness report does not replace any reports already legally required. It is a separate and additional report.
Perkins Asbill: A Professional Law Corporation
At Perkins Asbill, we offer Sacramento residents employment law and business litigation services. Our team of capable and experienced attorneys works diligently to ensure that each client understands the unique characteristics of their case. We tirelessly pursue our clients’ rights in an effort to protect and maintain justice.
If you have questions about upcoming changes in California employment law or if you believe you may require legal assistance with a prior or current occurrence contact our offices today at 916-446-2000. The Perkins Asbill legal team helps to enforce employee rights, help organizations navigate complex litigation issues, and more.