What New California Laws Mean For The Workplace In 2022, From Warehouses To Pay Disputes

A first-in-the-nation law to regulate quotas in warehouses. A ban on nondisclosure agreements in workplace harassment and discrimination lawsuits. An easier pathway to becoming barbers and hairstylists.

California workers and businesses will have those laws and more to abide by as the new year rolls around.

Last year was “kind of a down year” when it comes to the number of significant labor laws getting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature, said Ben Ebbink, a Sacramento-baed partner at a law firm Fisher Phillips representing employers.

Still, Ebbink noted several significant bills will affect employers and employees alike starting Jan. 1. Here’s what to know about the new laws:

WAGE THEFT

The government will be able to issue a felony charge against employers who intentionally steal workers’ wages of more than $950 for one employee or $2,350 for two or more employees. Such a charge could lead to up to three years in jail.

“We’re not talking about an inadvertent, clerical mistake but situations where employers know what they’re doing and are not intending to pay workers by the law,” Ebbink said. “I don’t see a lot of risk for the prosecutors running around hitting mom-and-pop stores for inadvertent violations.”

WORKPLACE SAFETY

California will also spike the amount of fines it could levy on the employers who don’t provide safe workplaces. Under Senate Bill 606, Cal-OSHA can impose a penalty for each employee affected by the violation of the state’s health and safety regulations if it is willful and “egregious.”

Cal-OSHA will also be able to issue an “enterprise-wide” citation, hitting all of the employer’s worksites, if the agency has evidence of a pattern of the same violation involving more than one of the facilities.

NONDISCLOSURE AGREEMENTS

Meanwhile, the state will ban the use of nondisclosure settlement agreements on workplace harassment and discrimination cases. The law also prevents, with few exceptions, employers from offering severance agreements that block the displaced workers from talking about unlawful acts in the workplace.

MINIMUM WAGE

Under Senate Bill 639, no new employers may be permitted to pay workers with disabilities less than the state’s minimum wage, a practice that had been allowed in some circumstances to encourage employment. Existing employers paying subminimum wages have until Jan. 1, 2025, to increase the pay for their workers.

Speaking of the minimum wage, employers with 26 or more employees soon must pay their workers at least $15 an hour. Smaller employers will be required to pay their workers at least $14 an hour. Some cities and counties may have an even higher minimum wage.

WAREHOUSE, GARMENT, COSMETIC AND FOOD INDUSTRIES

Some laws will target specific industries.

Under Assembly Bill 701, companies must tell their warehouse workers of their quotas. Companies can’t use quotas to prevent workers from taking legally required meal, rest or bathroom breaks.

Companies must notify workers of their quota within 30 days of hiring, as well as of any discipline they may face from failing to meet the target. Workers who believe their quotas are unsafe can request 90 days of their work speed metrics and can sue employers to stop them from imposing the requirement.

Garment workers in the state must also now be paid hourly, instead of per piece produced, except in worksites covered by a collective bargaining agreement. Fashion brands would be held liable for labor law violations of their contractors.

Meanwhile, two new laws will affect the agriculture and food industry. Farmworkers are now designated as “essential workers,” giving them access to the state’s stockpile of N95 masks and other personal protective equipment. Food delivery platforms can’t retain any part of the tips given to their drivers.

Another new law will ease the requirement for Californians to be barbers or cosmetologists. Barbers and cosmetologists will only have to get 1,000 hours of training to get their license, compared to up to 1,600 hours beforehand.

Click here to read the full article at SacBee

SB406: Job Killer Threatens Us With More Litigation and Costs for Small Business


JobsA workplace is most successful when an employer will want to do what it takes to keep a worker happy and productive. This includes accommodating his or her “work-life balance,” within the constraints of operating the business.

But as usual, California has gone a different direction.

Workers here enjoy the most generous mandatory leave policies of anywhere in the nation.  The leave programs currently available include:

  • Family Medical and Parental Leave, applicable to employers of more than 50 workers, provides up to 12-weeks protected leave for employee’s or immediate family member’s medical condition or to bond with a newborn.
  • Pregnancy Disability Leave, applicable to employers of more than five workers, provides up to 16 weeks protected leave (in addition to the 12 weeks, above).
  • School Activities Leave, applicable to employers of more than 25 workers, provides up to 40 hours annually to attend school-related activities of a child.
  • Kin Care, applicable to all employers, allows employees to use up to half of paid time off for family members’ illnesses.
  • Paid Sick Leave, applicable to all employers, provides at least three sick days a year for even part-time employees and includes illnesses to their family members.

Only seven states, including California, have their own separate family leave laws. Only three states, including California, have a paid sick leave mandate. Only nine states, including California, have protected school/parental leave.

California is the only state with all of these protected or mandatory leave laws.

Indeed, California has mandated their notion of what constitutes appropriate employer behavior at every turn.

Or … almost every turn.

For wherever there’s a blank spot on the missing-mandate map, the California Legislature is there to fill it.

Last year, the Legislature mandated paid sick leave on every business in the state. This year the Legislature is considering a bill to apply the protected family and medical leave mandate to small businesses with just 25 workers, and expand the definition of family to include grandkids and grandparents, siblings and in-laws.

The upshot would be to require employers, including pretty small businesses, to provide up to 12 weeks of leave and, in some cases for larger businesses, up to 24 weeks (because the extended application of the leave is inconsistent with federal law). An employer must agree to the leave no matter the circumstances of the business. Even if other employees are also on extended leave, a worker’s request cannot be turned down.

These leave programs, like other employee benefits, can have salutary effects on the worker and the workplace. Permitting an employee to stabilize his or her family’s health can be vital for peace of mind and workplace productivity. However providing a mandatory entitlement to such extensive leave places too much burden on employers, a likely reason most other states have drawn the line at 12 weeks for larger employers.

And if a costly mandate on employers isn’t enough, the proposal provides another opportunity for trial lawyers to hold up complying businesses for damages and attorneys fees.

resident of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily