What’s New?

More New CA Employment Laws

by D. Gregory Valenza | |

The good news is that the time for Governor Newsom to sign the California Legislature’s bounty of bills has now ended for this year. The bad news is that he signed a bevy of them before time ran out.  These are in addition to the ones we have covered in our previous posts.  Here are the most important of the last batch:

Work-Sharing Amendment

“Work sharing” is an unemployment insurance program that permits employers to save employee’s jobs, reduce their hours, and permit the employees with reduced hours to obtain partial unemployment benefits.  If you’re not aware of the program, you can read about it here. 

As one can imagine, the work sharing program was used extensively and continues to be used during the COVID pandemic. The existing procedures for employers to apply for work sharing involve an application, and these applications have swamped the Employment Development Department.

AB 1731 (here) amends some of the work sharing law with an eye towards streamlining the system.  It’s an “urgency” statute, so it takes effect immediately.  Among other things, the new law requires the EDD to create an “internet portal” to receive electronic applications for work sharing, in lieu of paper applications (until January 1, 2024).  It also requires approval of work sharing for a year, and sets time tables for EDD to respond.

Crime Victims Leave

AB 2992 (here) expands and amends Labor Code sections 230 and 230.1, which provide time off for a number of reasons, and prohibit retaliation, discharge, etc. against employees who take such time off. This bill will take effect on January 1, 2021.

Section 230 applies to all employers.  The new version will prohibit employers from “discharge or in any manner discriminate against an employee for

  • taking time off to serve as required by law on an inquest jury or trial jury, if the employee, prior to taking the time off, gives reasonable notice to the employer that the employee is required to serve
  • taking time off to appear in court to comply with a subpoena or other court order as a witness in any judicial proceeding.
  • taking time off from work to obtain or attempt to obtain any relief. Relief includes, but is not limited to, a temporary restraining order, restraining order, or other injunctive relief, to help ensure the health, safety, or welfare of the victim or their child.

The first two bullets are existing law. The third bullet is expanded. The law also has very loose notice requirements, detailed in the statute. For example, it will be possible for employees to justify “unscheduled” time off for seeking relief as a crime victim with a note that the employee wrote him- or herself.

This existing statute also imposes detailed “reasonable accommodation” requirements on employers regarding victims of domestic violence and abuse.

Section 230.1 adds additional requirements to employers of 25 employees or more.  These employers shall not “discharge, or in any manner discriminate or retaliate against, an employee who is a victim, for taking time off from work for any of the following purposes:

(1) To seek medical attention for injuries caused by crime or abuse.
(2) To obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, program, rape crisis center, or victim services organization or agency as a result of the crime or abuse.
(3) To obtain psychological counseling or mental health services related to an experience of crime or abuse.
(4) To participate in safety planning and take other actions to increase safety from future crime or abuse, including temporary or permanent relocation.”
The statute goes into more detail regarding documentation and the like.
The law prescribes a notice that must be given to all new hires and provided to existing employees upon request. The  Labor Commissioner must develop the form. Employers may use their own form instead, but it must be “substantially similar” to the Labor Commissioner’s.

Kin Care Amendment

Kin Care is an existing law (Labor Code section 233) that requires employers to permit workers to take up to half of allowed paid sick leave to care for a covered relation.  This law will take effect on January 1, 2021.

AB 2017 (here) clarifies the Kin Care statute by adding this language: “The designation of sick leave taken for these reasons shall be made at the sole discretion of the employee.”  So, only the employee can decide that sick time will count as “Kin Care.”   Not sure what the issue is here, but that’s what the new language says.  This law takes effect January 1, 2021.

Personal Protective Equipment – Healthcare Industry 

Healthcare employers will have to address SB 275 (here) and AB 2537 (here).  These new laws mandate specific PPE inventory levels, reporting requirements and more. SB 275 also creates a new commission that will make recommendations on PPE requirements for “essential workers” outside of healthcare, such as secondary school employers.  These laws take effect January 1, 2021.

 Housekeepers’ Right to Sue for Unsafe Workplaces (Homes) 

Do you employ a housekeeper, gentle reader?  Welcome to employment law at home!  AB 2658 (here) prohibits “employers” from retaliating against domestic workers – as in housekeepers – who make bona fide safety complaints to Cal-OSHA, related government agencies, or even to their employers (hi, everyone who hires a housekeeper), about workplace safety issues within the ambit of OSHA.  This law takes effect January 1, 2021.

The statute allows OSHA to order reinstatement, back pay and other equitable remedies. But does this statute mean that private households can be sued for wrongful termination in violation of public policy for tort damages, including punitive damages, for firing a housekeeper, if the housekeeper can prove s/he made a safety-related complaint and was fired because of it?  After a certain California Supreme Court case that hurts me more than it does you, the answer is “could be,” although there are legal arguments to the contrary. Until that’s settled, better ensure the homeowner’s insurance coverage is sufficient.

Hey, on the bright side, the governor did veto a bill that would have made every private household subject to OSHA inspections based on complaints by domestic workers. See that veto message of AB 1257 here.

Boards of Directors for Publicly Traded Companies Headquartered in CA

The Legislature enacted AB 979 (here), which adds a new mandate to companies that are both publicly held and have their headquarters in California. This law takes effect January 1, 2021.

Previously, the Legislature mandated quotas for female board members on publicly traded corporations with California headquarters, depending on the size of the board.  AB 979 now requires these qualifying companies to include on their boards of directors a sufficient number of “directors from underrepresented communities.” That number is phased in over time and depends on the company’s number of directors. An “underrepresented community” is “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.”


Next time we’ll have a list of all the new employment statutes the Legislature passed and the Governor signed this session.

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