Publication Details

The California Legislative Report - May 2020

May 27, 2020 | Related Attorney Michael S. Kalt | Topic: Employment

As discussed in the April newsletter, the COVID-19 pandemic turned out to be the only thing capable of stopping (albeit briefly) the California legislature, as it forced an unexpected recess from March 20, 2020 through May 4, 2020.  However, the Legislature is back in session, albeit with some modified deadlines, including that all bills must pass the Legislature by August 31, 2020.  (Under normal circumstances, the Legislative Calendar would specify the deadline for each chamber to pass the pending bills, but it now appears the Legislature will simply use a single date for all bills).

This pandemic and the resulting truncated schedule has significantly modified the legislative agenda in several respects.  First, it required many legislators to materially cull down their legislative wish list, and significantly reduce the number of bills generally and employment laws specifically being considered this session.  Second, it has shifted the focus from further AB 5 amendments (initially nearly 40 such bills proposed) to COVID-19-related items, particularly for time off from work, paid family leave benefits and potential workers’ compensation changes.  These recently-introduced COVID-19 measures include that would:

  • Expand California’s “family and medical leave” law (CFRA) to include all employers, regardless of size, and expand the family members for whom leave may be taken (AB 3216);
  • Expand California’s paid sick leave law both to allow usage for closures due to state emergencies and to also require employers provide ten paid sick days for “emergency leave: (AB 3216);
  • Amend Labor Code section 230.8 to expand the protected time-off related for employees affected by school/childcare closures (SB 1383);
  • Expand workers’ compensation coverage to include COVID-19 illness for first responders, critical workers and essential workers (AB 664/SB 1159/AB 196);
  • Expand California’s Paid Family Leave benefits to employees who need time off related to COVID-19 purposes (SB 943);
  • Establish a “right of recall” for laid off employees from private employers (AB 3216); and
  • Impose new notice requirements for H2-A employers related to emergency or disaster declarations (SB 1102).

In addition to these COVID-19 bills, there are a number of other employment bills pending, including to require larger employers to provide annual pay data reports (SB 973), require employers provide 10 days of bereavement leave (AB 2999), and further amend AB 5, including expanding the exempted professional services and industries (AB 1850).  These bills have all survived an initial crucial substantive committee vote, and will now move forward but must pass the Legislature by August 31st.

In contrast, a number of other bills that would have repealed, delayed or further materially amended AB 5 either failed initial key committee votes, or seemingly have been pulled from further consideration, presently leaving only the bill authored by AB 5’s author (AB 1850) still pending.  It remains to be seen if some of these other AB 5 –related bills may be reasserted later, including via the so-called “gut and amend” process, or be substantively included in AB 1850 as it proceeds through the legislative process.

Finally, in a helpful agency development, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing has now made available the on-line training video employers may use to train their non-supervisory employees regarding harassment to meet the current January 1, 2021 deadline. The DFEH has also announced the on-line training video for supervisor harassment training should be available shortly.

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