Starting on January 1, 2022, the following employment laws take effect.
California Family Rights Act Clean Up Bill
The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) was expanded last year to cover small employers and dramatically broadened the definition of “family member” for whom leave could be taken. AB 1033 builds upon last year’s SB 1383 and clarifies that employees can take family and medical leave to care for a parent-in-law with a serious health condition. AB 1033 also makes participation in a mediation program (under AB 1867) a prerequisite to an employee filing a civil action. Good news for small businesses to know that CFRA disputes can be resolved through mediation rather than costly litigation.
Cal/OSHA Enforcement Authority
SB 606 – Expands Cal/OSHA’s enforcement authority. Cal/OSHA can issue citations for two new violations categories.
If an employer with multiple worksites has a written policy or procedure in violation of certain safety rules or evidence of an unsafe pattern or practice, Cal/OSHA may presume that the violation is enterprise-wide. If the employer fails to rebut the presumption, Cal/OSHA may issue an enterprise-wide citation (carrying the same penalties as repeated or willful violations) requiring abatement.
If Cal/OSHA believes an employer has egregiously or willfully violated an occupational health or safety standard, special order, or regulations as noted in the statute, Cal/OSHA must issue a citation for an “egregious violation.” SB 606 specifies that every instance of an employee exposed to an egregious volition is considered a separate violation when issuing fines and penalties.
Under AB 1003 the intentional theft of wages, benefits or compensation of more than $950 for one employee or more than $2,350 for two or more employees in a consecutive 12-month period is punishable as grand theft under the California Penal Code (prosecutors may charge as a misdemeanor or felony).
SB 572 allows the California Labor Commissioner to enforce wage liens against employers by being able to create a lien on real property, as an alternative to a judgment lien, in order to secure amounts due to the commissioner under any final citation, findings or decision.
Severance & Settlement Agreements
SB 331 significantly expands on laws passed over the past few years limiting the ability to use confidentiality clauses in severance and settlement agreements. Prior to SB 331, any settlement agreement in a case where sexual harassment, sexual assault or discrimination based on sex has been alleged couldn’t include a confidentiality provision prohibiting disclosure of information regarding the claim.
SB 331 will apply to settlement agreements starting January 1, 2022. A severance and settlement agreement in a case of discrimination based on sex, sexual harassment, or sexual assault has been alleged cannot include a confidentiality provision prohibiting disclosure of information regarding the claim. SB 331 expands this prohibition to include other acts of workplace harassment or discrimination, not just those based on sex based on any characteristic protected under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. Employers can still include clauses preventing disclosure of the claims settlement amount paid. However, employees cannot be prohibited from discussing underlying facts of the case.
AB 654 is an urgency measure that took effect immediately upon signing on October 5. It clarifies last year’s COVID-19 bill (AB 685) to make notice requirements and reporting more consistent. Specifically, regarding the obligations to provide information on COVID-19-related benefits and the disinfection and safety information, the language was revised to require employers to send notice to employees who were “on the premises at the same worksite as the qualifying individual within the infectious period.” The bill also changes the timeframe for employers to notify local public health agencies of COVID-19 outbreaks to “within 48 hours or one business day, whichever is later.” It exempts those health facilities already required to report outbreaks under other legal requirements.
When the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) or a local health officer issues an order or mandatory COVID-19-related guidance, they’re required under SB 336 to publish the order/guidance on their website and date it takes effect. The CDPH or local health officer must also provide an opportunity to sign up to receive updates regarding the order or guidance via email.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) State Stockpile Expanded
Under AB 73, last year’s personal protective equipment (PPE) bill was broadened to include agricultural workers as essential workers as well as wildfire smoke events as a health emergency under the law. AB 73 also requires Cal/OSHA to update wildfire smoke training, which employers must follow.
Employers should consult with legal counsel to make any changes to their policies and procedures as it relates to these latest laws.