Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed several bills into law that will provide greater protections to California employees. In particular, the California Legislature expanded the California Family Rights Act, provided that employees are permitted to use at least half of their annual sick leave for family reasons, provided additional protections for employees who are victims of crime or abuse, expanded the deadline to file Labor Commissioner complaints related to an employee who has been discharged or discriminated against in violation of the labor code, and more. Below is a list, with a brief explanation, of some of the newly enacted laws:
SB 1383 – Expansion of The California Family Rights Act (Effective Jan. 1, 2021)
Beginning January 1, 2021, the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) and the New Parent Leave Act (“NPLA”) will make it an unlawful employment practice for any employer with five or more employees to refuse to grant a request by an employee to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid job protected leave during any 12-month period to bond with a new child of the employee or to care for themselves or a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or domestic partner. Previously, the CFRA and NPLA applied only to employers with 50 or 20 employees, respectively.
AB 2017 - Employees May Use Sick Leave for Family Reasons (Effective Jan. 1, 2021)
This law provides that employees must be permitted to use at least half of their annual accrual of employer-provided sick leave for family reasons. This bill amends the law to provide that it is up to the employee’s sole discretion to designate leave for this purpose.
AB 2992 – Employees Who Are Victims of Crime or Abuse Are Entitled to Job Protected Leave (Effective Jan. 1, 2021)
Existing law prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or who are forced to take time off from work to attempt to obtain relief to help ensure the health, safety or welfare of the victim or the victim’s child. AB 2992 expands existing provisions to apply to employees who are victims of a crime or abuse for taking time off from work to attempt to obtain relief which 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.
AB 685 - Expansion of Employers Duty to Report Potential Exposure to COVID-19 (Effective Jan. 1, 2021)
This law requires an employer that receives a notice of potential exposure to COVID-19, to provide a written notice within one business day to all employees who were at the same worksite as the qualifying individual within the infectious period (currently defined as 10 days by the California Health Department) and who may have been exposed to COVID-19. The notice must also inform the parties of the disinfection and safety plan that the employer plans to carry out in accordance with CDC guidelines, and provide employees information regarding the COVID-19-related benefits to which they may be entitled to under applicable laws.
AB 1867 – Provides Supplemental Paid Sick Leave for Employees Affected By COVID-19 (Effective Immediately)
This law requires private employers with more than 500 employees, to provide up to 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave to employees to use for specified COVID purposes. For an employee to be eligible, the employee must be unable to work due to one of the following reasons:
- The employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
- The employee is advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine or self-isolate due to concerns related to COVID-19; or
- The employee is prohibited from working by the employer due to health concerns related to the potential transmission of COVID-19.
Of note, being subject to general stay-at-home orders does not mean that the employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19.
Covered employers are required to provide COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave until December 31, 2020, the same date that the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) is set to expire. Should the FFCRA be extended, the COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave will also be extended to track the end date of the FFCRA. Finally, should the employee be on a COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave while the law expires, the employee is allowed to finish taking leave.
AB 1947 – Expansion of Deadline to File Labor Commissioner Complaints (Effective Jan. 1, 2021)
This bill amends Labor Code section 98.7 to extend the period of time for employees who believe that they have been discharged or otherwise discriminated against in violation of any law enforced by the Labor Commissioner to file a complaint with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, from six months to one year.
This bill also amends Labor Code section 1102.5 to allow an employee who prevails on a claim for certain types of retaliation to recover his or her attorneys’ fees. This will dramatically increase the value of California employees’ whistleblower claims as attorneys’ fees for litigating these claims can be extremely high.
SB 1384 — Labor Commissioner’s Representation of Financially Disabled Persons (Effective Jan. 1, 2021)
This law modifies Labor Code section 98.4, which previously provided that the Labor Commissioner could only represent indigent claimants in de novo proceedings (appeals of Labor Commissioner wage claim awards). The bill expands the Labor Commissioner’s representation to arbitrations for claimants who cannot afford counsel, requires employers to serve petitions to compel arbitration on the Labor Commissioner, and allows the Labor Commissioner to represent claimants in proceedings to determine whether arbitration agreements are enforceable.
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