Usually, California employers need to be prepared for the possibility of new employment laws signed during the legislative session, which adjourned on August 31. This year, there was some additional wrangling in the legislature that took a little longer. But, as expected, Governor Newsome signed several bills expanding employee workplace protections on September 29th and 30th.

Below are the top laws that we believe could impact our clients. Read on, the fun has just begun!

Before you start, we suggest you have your heartburn medication handy, or maybe some coffee or some other drink of choice. . . we’re HR people, and can’t tell you what kind of drink to choose, but we think you might already know.

Ok, ready? Set? Here we go. . .

1. COVID-Related Bills: AB 152, AB 2693, and AB 1751 California COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave
Effective now through the end of the 2022 (But you’re already compliant, right?)

Ok, we know, we’re all done with COVID, right? Not quite. Three bills have been passed extending existing COVID rules as follows.

AB 152 extends the COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave or SPSL through the end of the year. SPSL requires that employers provide sick pay to employees who test positive or are otherwise impacted by COVID-19.

What if employees already used their SPSL time? Good news, employers are not required to provide more SPSL leave than what employees were already entitled to. The law simply entitles employees to use the leave time they already had, if they haven’t used it yet and need to. Employees, that doesn’t mean you can just take time off if you aren’t impacted by COVID-19. For more information on AB 152, please read our article here.

AB 2693 expands COVID-19 notice requirements where employers must provide notices to employees or others who may have been exposed to COVID in the workplace. You already had to do that right? Yes, but employers can post a notice of exposure for 15 days rather than sending out individual notices. But I like sending out individual notices. Ok, either approach is compliant.

Note that, CalOSHA is considering a “permanent” COVID-19 regulation for 2023 that would last for two years. So don’t be too excited about all this going away any time soon. Don’t worry, we’ll keep you posted.

Wait! I didn’t say I was done yet…

Finally, AB 1751 extends the requirement to report COVID-19 cases that could be work-related to worker’s compensation carriers until January 1, 2024. Wait, I didn’t know about this one. Ok, I hope you did know that you are supposed to let your worker’s compensation carrier know that you have COVID-19 cases.

If you need help updating your COVID-19 prevention plan, please let us know!

The following laws become effective January 1, 2023 (yes, in less than three months!)

2. SB 1162 Pay Data Reporting and Posting of Pay Scales on Job Postings

SB 1162 expands upon existing laws by requiring employers with 100 or more employees to file pay data reports with the EEOC by the second Wednesday of May every year, even if they do not have to file EEO-1 reports. The pay data reports must:
● include median and mean hourly rates for every job type and
● categorize the pay data by race, ethnicity, and sex.

A separate pay data report must be filed by employers with 100 or more employees who are hired through labor contractors. Be aware that non-compliance can result in significant civil penalties.
Additionally, SB 1162 requires all employers with 15 or more employees to post pay scales on job postings.

Wait, you didn’t have any little jokes this time? Um, no, I’m a diversity trainer. . . not going to happen.

We can help you with how to determine pay scales and how to post compliant job postings.

3. AB 1949 Bereavement Leave

Employers with five or more employees have a new leave type to be aware of. How many leave types are there in this state, you ask? Well, no less than a bajillion! What’s one more. . .

AB 1949 requires employers to provide up to five days of unpaid time off for bereavement. The law allows for the time off when an employee experiences the death of a family member as defined by the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). See item five below to understand who is considered a family member under CFRA.

Seriously though, people really do need time off to grieve. If you have a problem with this one, you need to read our blogs on self-care and check your inner scrooge.

4. AB 1041 “Designated Persons” Expansion of Family Leave

CFRA has been expanded to cover the care of a “designated person.” Just wait until I tell you what that means!

Under CFRA, eligible employees are entitled to take job-protected time off to care for the following family members: their child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, registered domestic partner, and now “designated person.”

Ok, so who exactly is a “designated person?” Hold on! I’m getting there!

It is “any individual related by blood or whose association with the employee is equivalent of a family relationship.”

Does that make it clear? No?

Additionally, employees can use California’s Paid Sick Leave Law to use sick time to pay for days off to provide care to a “designated person,” which under this provision of the bill doesn’t include the “related by blood” or the “equivalent of a family relationship” language. Go figure, a lack of consistent language.

Hmmm. . . so, it appears that employees can take time off to take care of a sick anyone who they consider to be a “designated person.”

What rights do employers have? You can limit an eligible employee use of CFRA leave for the care of a “designated person” to one “designated person” per 12-month period for paid sick time. Employees, choose wisely because you can’t take time off to care for your sick boyfriend/girlfriend, dog-sitter, and your next-door neighbor in the same 12-month period! I mean they are all like family, right?

In all seriousness though, managing leaves of absences can be extremely complicated and many of our clients have seen an uptick in leave requests. That is no joke! Let us help you navigate the complexities of your employees leave requests before it gets more challenging and riskier, because then you’ll need a lawyer.

5. SB 1044 Emergency Conditions Anti-Retaliation, now a Part of Labor Code Section 1193

Californians have become familiar with wildfires and active shooter situations in the last few years (sadly, we all have some form of PTSD it seems. CBD oil anyone?).

Given that natural disasters and other life-threatening situations are unfortunately something we continue to have to account for in this state, we now have a new protection allowing employees to not come to work during an “emergency condition.” Not making any jokes with this one either.

In case you’re wondering though, “emergency condition,” under SB 1044 does not include a health pandemic. Whew!

The bill defines an “emergency condition” as the “existence of either:”

● “Conditions of disaster or extreme peril to the safety of persons or property at the workplace or worksite caused by natural forces or a criminal act,” or
● “An order to evacuate a workplace, a worksite, a worker’s home, or the school of a worker’s child due to natural disaster or criminal act.”

So, here’s what you really need to be aware of: the Labor Code now prohibits threatening to or taking any adverse action against an employee for refusing to come to work or for leaving the worksite when the employee has a “reasonable” belief that the workplace is unsafe.

What is a “reasonable” belief? Good question!

It means that any person under similar circumstances would decide that there is a real threat of death or serious injury if they come to work or stay at work.

At least employees can’t claim that they can’t come to work because COVID-19 has made the worksite unsafe under this new law. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

First responders and health care providers providing direct patient care are exempt. We all need them during a disaster!

Note that the Labor Code also states that employers cannot prohibit employees “from accessing mobile device or other communications device for seeking emergency assistance, assessing the safety of the situation, or communicating with a person to verify their safety.”

Do you have a no cell phone use at work policy? We can help you become compliant with this new law.

6. AB 2188 Employment Discrimination and Cannabis

Effective January 1, 2024 (ok, you have a little over a year, how will you be ready?)

We’ve been waiting for this one since there have been several attempts at passing similar laws since the legalization of cannabis in California. Here it is.

AB 2188 establishes that adverse employment actions based on either a current employee’s use of cannabis while not at work or a job candidate’s positive pre-employment drug test showing non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites is prohibited.

I could throw a log of sarcastic little jabs into this one, but you’ll have to use your imagination this time. . .

Employers can continue to maintain drug-free workplace policies despite the bill because it does not protect cannabis-based impairment at work. However, determining if someone is impaired from cannabis use may pose challenges. If you don’t know why, you really do need to contact us and we can talk about it.

Certain industries are exempted from the new bill; specifically, building and construction trades (thankfully!).

If you need help setting up a reasonable suspicion process to determine impairment from being under the influence of substances while at work, we can help.

There are some other laws that have been signed as well, but I’m tired now. The bottom line with all these changes is that you need to ensure your company handbook is up to date and that you have protocols in place to ensure compliance with these new laws. Who should you call? Perhaps your trusted local HR Consulting company. . . yes, that’s us! We don’t even mind if you need to vent about it, just put the glass down first.

Founded in 1987 in Santa Rosa, California, The Personnel Perspective is a full-service HR management consulting firm specializing in human resources, leadership development and training, and recruiting. The firm’s core belief is that a company achieves organizational excellence through its people (and legal compliance too!). Contact us to learn more: (707) 801-0140.