This fall, the California legislature responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with several new laws that impact employers from workers' compensation, paid sick leave/Leaves of absence and workplace safety. Other legal trends like worker classification, discrimination and harassment, and privacy continue to evolve in the state. Governor, Gavin Newsom signed several labor law updates the employers need to know for 2021.
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2021 California Labor Law Updates are grouped into categories (click the link to jump to section)
- COVID-19 Related Laws
- Leaves of Absence
- California Municipal Minimum Wage Orders
- Wage and Hour
- Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation Protections
- Cal/OSHA Emergency Regulations
- California Consumer Protections and Privacy
- Pay Data Reporting
California Labor Law Updates
Covid-19 Related Laws
There are new laws related to COVID-19 that will impact employers in the context of workers’ compensation, paid sick leave and workplace safety.
SB 1159: Workers' Compensation
This law establishes a rebuttable workers’ compensation presumption for workers who contracted COVID-19 between March 19, 2020, and July 5, 2020, and, second, creating a rebuttable presumption for first responders and health care personnel who contract COVID-19 after July 6, 2020.
SB 1159 also creates an “outbreak” presumption for employers with five or more employees, covering workers who test positive for COVID-19 during an “outbreak” at the employee’s place of employment. The statute specifically defines “outbreak” as any of the following:
- If the employer has 100 employees or fewer at a specific place of employment, four employees test positive for COVID-19 within two weeks.
- If the employer has more than 100 employees at a specific place of employment, 4 percent of the number of employees test positive within two weeks.
- Public authorities order the place of employment closed due to a risk of COVID-19 infection.
- Employers have limited time to reject claims under the new law.
Additionally, when an employer with five or more employees “knows or reasonably should know” that an employee tests positive for COVID-19, SB 1159 requires the employer to inform its workers’ compensation carrier and provide specified information within three business days. SB 1159 was an urgency measure that went into effect September 17, 2020.
AB 1867: Paid Sick Leave
This law took effect immediately on September 9, 2020. It expands supplemental paid sick leave for COVID-19-related reasons for certain employers not already covered by the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) — specifically, employers with 500 or more employees nationwide, as well as health care providers and first responders that are excluded from FFCRA.
Employees who work for covered employers can take COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave if the worker is:
- Subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
- Advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine or self-isolate due to concerns related to
- Prohibited from working by the employer due to health concerns related to the potential transmission of COVID-19.
Employees working from home are not eligible for supplemental paid sick leave.
The California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) has issued guidance on the new leave requirements that answers employers’ common questions about coverage, eligibility, calculating leave amounts and pay, and how previously provided paid sick leave, under local ordinances, for example, may be credited toward the new law’s requirements.
Employers must post the appropriate notice below in the workplace. If employees do not regularly go to the workplace, it should be distributed to them electronically.
OnePoint HCM Paid Sick Leave Accruals
OnePoint’s Accruals solution simplifies your ability to accurately track sick leave accruals, rollovers and caps to meet local paid sick leave compliance laws.
Minimize compliance risk by configuring accrual calculations for multiple groups with varying accrual rules. Give employees in different leave groups real-time visibility to see the amount of sick leave to meet local laws without creating extra work for HR.
AB 685: Workplace Safety
AB 685 establishes stringent COVID-19 recording and reporting requirements when employers receive “notice of a potential exposure to COVID-19” at the workplace. Among other things, AB 685 requires employers to provide a number of notices to different groups of employees within one business day after receiving notice of a potential COVID-19 exposure.
AB 685 also requires employers to notify their local public health agency within 48 hours of a COVID-19 “outbreak,” as defined by the California Department of Public Health(CDPH). At the time of publication, the CDPH defined an outbreak in most instances as three lab-confirmed cases within two weeks, though the department could revise this definition. Because the definition of “outbreak” under this law differs from the definition under SB 1159, employers should be mindful of the circumstances and which definition should apply. (See our for details about the CDPH-issued guidance on this new notices law.)
SB 1383: Leaves of Absence
SB 1383 expands California Family Rights Act coverage in two ways:
- It now makes CFRA applicable to all employers with five or more employees
- Expands the eligible reason for leaves. Originally the medical leave requirements extended only to the employee’s self, child, parent, or spouse. SB 1383 expands the leave to include a grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or domestic partner.
This expansion will have a major impact on small businesses, which must quickly get up to speed on CFRA’s requirements to be ready by January 1. This bill also impacts larger employers already covered by the CFRA and FMLA who will in some cases have to administer the two leaves separately. For example an employee can take 12 weeks of leave to care for a sibling under CFRA and then take another separate 12 weeks to care for themselves or their spouse under FMLA.
Employers, big and small, should become familiar with the law’s details and be prepared to revise or implement compliant policies and practices by 2021.
OnePoint Enterprise Leave Manager
OnePoint Full Suite clients can add this functionality to consolidate accrued time, historical time data and entitlement rules into a centralized leave management system to ensure only eligible leaves are approved and they are administered correctly to keep you compliant.
Municipal Minimum Wages
Municipal Minimum Wage Increases January, 1, 2021
|Belmont||$15.90 per hour|
|Cupertino||$15.65 per hour|
|Daly City||$15.00 per hour|
|El Cerrito||$15.61 per hour|
|Half Moon Bay||$15.00 per hour|
|Los Altos||$15.65 per hour|
|Menlo Park||$15.25 per hour|
|Oakland||$14.36 per hour|
|Palo Alto||$15.65 per hour|
|Petaluma||$15.20 per hour|
|Redwood City||$15.62 per hour|
|Richmond||$15.21 per hour|
|San Carlos||$15.24 per hour|
|San Diego||$14.00 per hour|
|San Jose||$15.45 per hour|
|San Mateo||$15.62 per hour|
|Santa Clara||$15.65 per hour|
|Santa Rosa||$15.20 per hour|
|South San Francisco||$15.24 per hour|
|Sunnyvale||$16.30 per hour|
Other California City Minimum Wage Orders Higher than the State
|Emeryville||$16.84 per hour|
|Fremont||$13.50 per hour (25 EEs or Less)||$15 per hour (26+ EEs)|
|Los Angeles (City & Co.)||$14.25 per hour (25 EEs or Less)||$15 per hour (26+ EEs)|
|Malibu||$14.25 per hour (25 EEs or Less)||$15 per hour (26+ EEs)|
|Milpitas||$15.40 per hour|
|Pasadena||$14.25 per hour (25 EEs or Less)||$15 per hour (26+ EEs)|
|San Francisco||$16.07 per hour|
|San Leandro||$15.00 per hour|
|Santa Monica||$14.25 per hour (25 EEs or Less)||$15 per hour (26+ EEs)|
|Santa Rosa||$14.00 per hour (25 EEs or Less)||$15 per hour (26+ EEs)|
Novato (3 tiered Minimum Wage)
$15.24 per hour for very large businesses with 100 or more employees (based on CPI-W adjustment);
$15 per hour for large businesses with 26-99 employees; and
$14 per hour for small businesses with 1-25 employees.
Source: Economic Policy Institute Wage Tracker (California)
Wage and Hour
SB 1384: Enforcement
Currently, the Labor Commissioner can, upon request, represent a claimant in proceedings to appeal a wage claim award if the claimant couldn’t afford counsel. SB 1384 extends the commissioner’s authority to also represent a claimant who’s financially unable to represent themselves in a hearing where a court order has compelled arbitration to determine the claim.
AB 3075: Wages
This law specifically makes a successor employer liable for its predecessor’s unpaid wage judgments and establishes specific criteria to establish successorship. The bill also allows local jurisdictions to enforce state labor standards requirements regarding payment of wages.
Rest Breaks: Security Services Industry Exception
A couple of narrow industry-specific rest break bills were signed this year. AB 1512 allows security guards to remain on the premises during rest periods and to remain on call during the rest period. If work interrupts the rest period, the security guard must be permitted to restart the rest period as soon as practicable. This exception applies to security guards registered under the Private Security Services Act working for employers registered under the same law. AB 2479 extends a limited on-call rest break exception for safety sensitive positions at petroleum facilities to 2026.
Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation Protections
AB 1947 extends the time an individual can file a complaint of discrimination or retaliation with the DLSE, also known as the Labor Commissioner. Under current law, workers has six months to file a compliant with the Labor Commissioner alleging they were discriminated or retaliated against in violation of any law. Beginning on January 1, 2021, however, AB 1947 extends that time to one year (twelve months).
Cal/OSHA Emergency Orders
Cal/OSHA’s emergency regulations requiring employers to protect workers from hazards related to COVID-19 are now in effect, following their approval November 30 by the Office of Administrative Law. As emergency standards, these regulations became effective immediately.
The emergency standards apply to most workers in California not covered by Cal/OSHA’s Aerosol Transmissible Diseases standard. The regulations require that employers implement a site-specific written COVID-19 prevention program to address COVID-19 health hazards, correct unsafe or unhealthy conditions, and provide face coverings. When there are multiple COVID-19 infections or outbreaks at the worksite, employers must provide COVID-19 testing and notify public health departments. The regulations also require accurate recordkeeping and reporting of COVID-19 cases.
Consumer Privacy and Protections
The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) gives California consumers rights over how and whether the personal data they provide to businesses is collected, retained and sold. Because its definitions are broad, the CCPA applies to employee data collected by employers for employment purposes
This is problematic because, under the rights established by the CCPA, employees could potentially request to have their personal information deleted.
To address this issue, the Legislature passed AB 25 in 2019, largely exempting employee data from the CCPA’s requirements for one year; this year’s AB 1281 extends the exemption for an additional year to the end of 2021.
Note: Employers must still comply with the additional CCPA requirements that include providing notice either before or at the time of collecting personal information from an applicant or employee. That notice must describe every category of information that will be collected and the purposes for which it will be used. CCPA regulations describing how employers can give a compliant notice are now in effect.
Pay Data Reporting
SB 973: Pay Data Reporting Requirements
On September 30, 2020, Governor Newsom signed into law Senate Bill 973, which creates pay reporting requirements for employers. The law requires employers with 100 or more employees to file an annual Employer Information Report (EEO-1) (also required under federal law), to also submit a pay data report to the DFEH that contains information about their employees’ race, ethnicity and gender in various job categories.
Read more about meeting California Pay Data Reporting Requirements with OnePoint HCM
This summary digest of new California employment laws is intended for market awareness only. It is not exhaustive and it is not to be used for legal advice or counsel. Please access any number of public resources available to monitor changes in employment law that may affect your organization or consult with a labor law attorney.