California Lawmakers Send 7 Key Employment Bills to Governor

Lisa Nagele-Piazza, J.D., SHRM-SCP By Lisa Nagele-Piazza, J.D., SHRM-SCP September 3, 2020
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California state capitol and flag

The California legislative year has ended, and lawmakers sent multiple employment bills to Gov. Gavin Newsom for approval, including legislation that strengthens COVID-19 workplace protections, expands family and medical leave rights, and exempts certain workers from the state's stringent independent-contractor test. Newsom has until Sept. 30 to sign or veto bills.

We've rounded up the latest news on this topic from SHRM Online and other trusted outlets.

Leave and Recall Rights During the COVID-19 Crisis

State lawmakers approved AB 3216, which would require employers in certain hospitality industries to offer workers who were laid off during a public health emergency their prior position or another position for which they are qualified when one becomes available. "This bill is and has always been about protecting workers, especially those who have been among the hardest-hit communities during this crisis: Latino workers, low-wage workers and immigrant workers," said Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), who introduced the bill. Opponents say requiring employers to first offer jobs to laid-off workers would slow business efforts to reopen during the pandemic.

(Los Angeles Times)

Supplemental COVID-19-Related Paid Sick Leave

The California Legislature also passed AB 1867, which would provide up to 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave to California workers for COVID-19-related reasons. Newsom signed an executive order earlier this year providing supplemental paid sick leave to food-sector workers. This bill would extend such leave to all employees working for certain private businesses, as well as health care providers and emergency response workers, who are not already provided paid sick leave through the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act.  [Update: AB 1867 was signed into law on Sept. 9]

(Fisher Phillips)

Workers' Compensation and Coronavirus Claims

SB 1159 would extend an executive order that makes it easier for essential workers to receive workers' compensation benefits if they contract COVID-19 in the workplace. SB 1159 would create a "rebuttable presumption" that the illness was contracted on the job and would give employers the opportunity to show that the exposure was not work-related. Two bills (AB 664 and AB 196) did not pass that would have created a "conclusive presumption" that certain essential workers who become ill with COVID-19 were exposed to the coronavirus at work. [Update: SB 1159 was signed into law on Sept. 17]

(Business Insurance)

Workplace Notification of COVID-19 Exposure

AB 685 would require employers to notify their employees if any workers were exposed to COVID-19 and the employer knew or should have known about it. "As the average age of those falling ill from COVID-19 has become younger, it is critical to track workplace exposure and to use that data to find ways to keep workers safe on the job," according to the bill, which is supported by labor unions. The California Chamber of Commerce and other business groups oppose the bill, asserting that the definition of 'exposure' is "broad and vague." [Update: AB 685 was signed into law on Sept. 17]

(The Mercury News)

Family and Medical Leave for More Workers

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) currently applies to employers with 50 or more employees and provides covered employees with job-protected, unpaid time off for several reasons, including to care for their own illness or a sick relative. The New Parent Leave Act applies to businesses with at least 20 employees and provides job-protected time off to bond with a newborn or a child who was recently adopted or placed into foster care. SB 1383 would expand these leave laws to cover businesses with at least five employees. Supporters say the measure would provide needed protection for caregivers, while opponents say it would hurt small businesses. [Update: SB 1383 was signed into law on Sept. 17]

(Bloomberg Law)

Freelancer Exception to the 'ABC' Test

AB 2257 would amend California's stringent law for determining whether workers are independent contractors or employees by creating some exceptions. Currently, freelance writers, photographers, editors and cartoonists should generally be classified as employees if they produce more than 35 works per year for a single client. Among other changes, AB 2257 would establish an exemption for services provided by freelancers who meet certain criteria. AB 2257 would also create an exemption for some workers in the music industry. [Update: AB 2257 was signed into law on Sept. 4]

(SHRM Online)

Diversity on Boards

Lawmakers approved AB 979, which would require corporations with their principal executive office in California to have one director from an underrepresented community by the close of the 2021 calendar year. Additional requirements would apply in later years, depending on the size of the board. The bill defines a director from an "underrepresented community" as "an individual who self-identifies as Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian or Alaska Native." The bill was modeled after a 2018 California law that requires a minimum number of women on boards. "Women and minorities are underrepresented across white-collar industries, especially at the managerial and executive levels," said Assemblyman Chris Holden (D- Pasadena), who introduced the bill.

(Los Angeles Times)

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