New Year, New Laws: 2020 Employment Law Changes & Reminders

What employment laws are changing in 2020?

Below is a summary of new laws and updates to existing laws effective January 1, 2020, unless otherwise noted. As always, contact your HR Matrix associate or call our main number if you need any assistance or have questions. 707-526-0877

Sexual Harassment Training – Deadline Pushed Back (SB 778)

All employers with 5 or more employees are required to provide 2 hours of sexual harassment training to supervisors and 1 hour to nonsupervisory employees within 6 months of hire or promotion. SB 778 pushes the training requirement deadline to January 1, 2021. All trainings must be delivered every two years. Temporary and seasonal employees must be trained within 30 days of hire or 100 hours worked, whichever is earlier. Temporary services employers will be responsible for training employees who are placed with clients.

TO DO: Employer Action

  • Start putting a plan together now on how you will train your employees and supervisors if you haven’t already.
  • Contact us to arrange an in-person, interactive training session(s) or check with you insurance broker to see if this service is included with your coverage. For online training sources, we suggest the HR California online training.

Arbitration Prohibition (AB 51)

On December 30, 2019, District Court Judge granted a temporary restraining order (TRO) to prevent AB 51 from going into effect on January 1, 2020.

Following a growing national trend, AB 51 bans mandatory arbitration agreements between employers and employees and prohibits employers from requiring employees to waive FEHA or Labor Code-based rights as a condition of new or ongoing employment or the receiving of employment-related benefits. This law also prohibits discrimination or retaliation against an applicant or employee who refuses to enter into an arbitration agreement. Other states besides California are making changes to the legality or conditions surrounding arbitration agreements. Out of state agreements generally do not comply with CA requirements.

TO DO: Employer Action

  • If you use arbitration agreements, have your attorney review your agreement for compliance in the state in which it is used. Do not take adverse action against an employee who refuses to sign.
  • Consult with your attorney on how to administer existing, re-up and new agreements.

Hairstyle Discrimination (SB 188)

The law expands the definition of race in the Fair Employment and Housing Act. The law seeks to remove the Eurocentric professional norms and to protect employees and students from discrimination based on natural hair and hairstyles (e.g., afros, braids, twists, and locks).

TO DO: Employer Action

  • Review your workplace dress code, appearance, and/or grooming policies and practices. Ensure your policies and practices do not prohibit natural hair texture and protected styles.

Minimum Wage Increase

On January 1, 2020, California’s minimum wage increases to $12.00 per hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees and to $13.00 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees.  If your business is within a city/county with a local minimum wage ordinance, be sure to check on the minimum wage requirements.

Employers located in the city of Santa Rosa, Sonoma, and Petaluma: These cities have passed local minimum wage ordinances (under/over 25 employees).

  • Santa Rosa: July 1, 2020 ($14 / $15)
  • Sonoma: July 1, 2020 ($12.50 / $13.50)
  • Petaluma: January 1, 2020 ($14 / $15)

TO DO: Employer Action

  • Check local city/county minimum wage ordinance and increase wages accordingly.
  • Increase wages up to minimum wage based on employer size.
  • Ensure exempt employee salaries meet or exceed the new thresholds–twice minimum wage.

Independent Contractor Workers (AB 5)

This law codifies and expands the test that is used to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor, and explicitly puts the burden on the employer to prove that the worker has met all the criteria to be classified as an independent contractor. There are several layers of testing depending on what type of service is being performed, and certain carve outs for professions including doctors, insurance brokers, lawyers, architects, accountants, among others. Employers should continue using caution in classifying workers as independent contractors. Misclassification can be extremely costly.

TO DO: Employer Action

  • Classify workers as employees unless you are 100% certain they qualify as independent contractors.
  • Work with HRM or outside counsel to determine independent contractor eligibility in any case where you are unsure.

FEHA Limitation of Actions – Expanded (AB 9)

This law extends the period that an individual may file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing from one year to three years. FEHA complaints include discrimination and harassment.

TO DO: Employer Action

  • Employers should maintain detailed and accurate documentation pertaining to employee counselings, warnings, performance evaluations, and documents relating to employees’ termination of employment.
  • Remind employees of your open-door policy and encourage them to come forward with any concerns or complaints.
  • Ensure that all supervisors and employees are trained on harassment and discrimination policies and complaint procedures.

Paid Family Leave Expansion (SB 83)

Come July 1, 2020, California’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) benefit will increase from six weeks to eight weeks. PFL provides partial pay to employees who need to take time off from work to care for a seriously ill family member or to bond with a new child.

TO DO: Employer Action

  • In July 2020, update your PFL policy to reflect the new 8-week benefit.
  • Update PFL pamphlet when released by the state.

Domestic Partnerships (SB 30)

This law changes how a domestic partnership is defined in California. Historically, domestic partners must be two adults of the same sex or two adults of the opposite sex who were one or both over the age of 62. The new law, effective January 1, 2020, allows opposite-sex couples under the age of 62 to be eligible to form domestic partnerships.

TO DO: Employer Action

  • Work with benefits broker and review benefits plan documents to ensure that the definition of Registered Domestic Partner coincides with California law.
  • Determine how you will verify domestic partnerships for insurance coverage. Employers cannot discriminate between married employees and those with domestic partners in terms of requesting verification.

FSA Notification Deadline (AB 1554)

Employers will be required to notify employees of any deadline to submit flexible spending account (FSA) claims before the end of the plan year. The notification must be given in two different forms, only one of which can be electronic.

TO DO: Employer Action

  • Ensure all FSA participants are notified of their deadline to submit FSA claims both at the end of the plan year and if termination occurs mid-year.

Lactation Accommodation (SB 142)

California has expanded its lactation accommodation law by requiring employers to provide the following to lactating employees:

  • Not a bathroom
  • In close proximity to the employee’s work area
  • Shielded from view and free from intrusion
  • Safe, clean, and free from hazardous material
  • Contains a surface to place a breast pump and personal items
  • Has a place to sit
  • Access to electricity or alternative devices
  • Access to a sink with running water
  • Refrigerator suitable for storing milk

This new law does have an undue hardship exemption for employers with fewer than 50 employees. In addition, employers are required to create and implement a lactation accommodation policy and have it published in the employee handbook and furnish when an employee enquires or requests pregnancy leave.

TO DO: Employer Action

  • If you currently have any lactating employees, evaluate the current space to ensure it meets the above criteria. If it doesn’t, update the space accordingly.
  • If you do not have any lactating employees at this time but may in the future, consider the requirements and get a plan in place for how you will accommodate.
  • Create a lactation accommodation policy and embed the policy into the leaves section of your handbook.

Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (AB 1804)

This law requires employers to report serious occupational injuries, illnesses, or death immediately by telephone or through an online system (to be developed by the Division of Occupational Safety and Health). Until the online platform is available, employers are permitted to make these reports by telephone or email.

TO DO: Employer Action

Additional Organ Donation Leave (AB 1223)

Existing law requires private employers with 15+ employees to allow an employee to take a leave of absence with pay, not exceeding 30 business days in a one-year period, for the purpose of organ donation. This amendment requires applicable employers to provide an additional 30 business days of unpaid leave in a one-year period for the purpose of donating an organ to another person.

TO DO: Employer Action

  • Update your Organ Donation Leave of Absence policy.

Reminders for 2020

  • Update your employment law all-in-one poster. There have been several mandatory updates effective January 1, 2020.
  • Ensure your new hire packet contains up-to-date forms and notices.
    1. Disability Insurance – March 2019 (DE 2515)
    2. Programs for the Unemployed – November 2019 (DE 2320)
    3. Paid Family Leave – January 2020 (DE 2511)
    4. Form W-4 – 2020
  • Ensure your employees’ addresses are up to date for W-2s and ACA forms.
  • For employers who use the IRS rate for mileage reimbursements, update the rate to 57.5 cents per mile.
  • For employers with more than 10 employees, process the OSHA 300 log by February 1st. Some industries are exempt.

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