Publication Details

The California Legislative Report - April 2020

Apr 20, 2020 | Related Attorney Michael S. Kalt | Topic: Employment

If 2018 was the year of the #MeToo movement, and 2019 was the year of AB 5 and worker misclassification issues, 2020 will clearly be known as the year of “COVID 19.”  Relatively unheard of before 2020 (and even as of early March 2020), this pandemic has completely reshaped the legislative agendas at the federal, state and local levels.

At the federal level, Congress has quickly enacted and President Trump has already signed both the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).  The FFCRA took effect on April 1, 2020, and required most employers to provide emergency paid sick leave and emergency medical leave for various purposes related to the Coronavirus, and to post a new FFCRA poster.  The CARES Act provided much needed unemployment benefits for displaced workers and forgivable loans (aka “paycheck protection”) for small businesses that retained workers during this crisis.  The federal agencies, and in particular the Department of Labor (DOL), have continually provided updated information regarding COVID-19 issues, including the FFCRA and the CARES Act.  For instance, the DOL has an entire page devoted to COVID-19 issues, including very informative Frequently Asked Questions and the required poster, not only in English but also nine other languages. 

This pandemic has also proven to be the only thing that can stop the legislative process in Sacramento, as the Legislature remains on suspension and is not expected to reopen until at least May 13, 2020.  Because this ongoing suspension has vacated crucial deadlines and in light of the public emergency focus, the Legislature has signaled that even when it reopens, it will focus on a much smaller number of bills, most of which will involve public emergency issues.  Since the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly every employer and employee, not surprisingly a number of these will focus on employment-related items, including the already introduced bills that would:

  • Amend Labor Code section 230.8 to expand the protected time-off related for employees affected by school/childcare closures (SB 1383);
  • Allow employees to use already accrued paid sick leave during work closures due to “public emergencies” (AB 3123);
  • Require all employers to provide additional paid sick leave related to “public emergencies” (AB 2887); and
  • Expand California’s Paid Family Leave benefits to employees who need time off related to COVID-19 purposes.

It is anticipated that many more such COVID-19 employment bills will be introduced before the Legislature convenes, and that the majority of bills previously introduced during the 2020 session will simply stall.

Finally, various municipalities have also begun enacting their own COVID-19 related provisions.  For instances, Los Angeles has already enacted and at least three others (San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland) are considering supplemental paid sick leave bills for COVID-19 purposes.  While each municipality’s version differs in the details, they are uniform in their intent to require the larger employers (e.g., 500 or more employees) exempted from the FFCRA to provide COVID-19-related paid sick leave.

As noted above, it remains to be seen when the California Legislature will resume operations and what the new legislative calendar will be, or even what bills are being considered.  However, listed below is an overview, arranged largely by subject matter, of the key employment bills previously introduced, including the recently-introduced COVID-19 proposals.

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