A few posts ago we briefly discussed some of California’s new laws for 2021.Today we’ll examine these laws and a few other’s a bit further.

AB 685 concerns COVID-19 reporting requirements. Under this law, all employers with employees who have been exposed to COVID-19 at work must notify their employees within one day and notify the local public health agency in the jurisdiction of the worksite. Employers must also notify the aforementioned health agency  if an employee tests positive for COVID-19, is diagnosed with COVID-19, ordered to isolate by a public health official, or passed away due to COVID-19 (as determined by the county). OSHA may close the workplace if it finds that the facility is an “imminent hazard” to employees. OSHA, at its own discretion, may decide if a place of employment is an imminent hazard that exposes workers to COVID-19. The imminent hazard provision is set to expire January 1, 2023.

Employers have several notice requirements for COVID-19 outbreaks. Employers must determine which employees or contractors were present at the time the infected employee was present. For employees who do not yet show symptoms, the infectious time period is determined as 48 hours before symptoms appear. Written notice must be given to those employees indicating that they may have been exposed, what COVID-19 benefits are available, existing protections under the law (e.g., workers’ compensation, company sick leave, state-mandated leave, supplemental sick leave, any applicable negotiated leave provisions, and antiretaliation and antidiscrimination protections), and the employer’s disinfection and safety plan per the guidelines of the federal Centers for Disease Control. The notice must be either in English or whatever language is the one predominantly spoken at work. Outbreaks are determined by three or more confirmed cases among employees living in different households within a two-week period. COVID-19 outbreaks must be reported to the local public health agency within 48 hours.

SB 1159 concerns the COVID-19 worker’s compensation presumption. This law creates a worker’s compensation presumption in two circumstances: 

  1. First responders and healthcare workers that test positive within 14 days of a workday outside their home;
  2. Any employee that either (a) works for an employer with 5 or more employees; (b) tests positive within 14 days of a workday outside of their home; and (c) tests positive during an outbreak at their workplace.

When the presumption is applicable, employers have 45 days to deny the worker’s compensation claim. Employers with 5 or more employees must also notify their insurance claims administrator within 3 business days of knowing an employee tested positive for COVID-19.

SB 1383 added new protections to the existing California Family Rights Act (CFRA), increasing CFRA protections to all employers with 5 or more employees. Similar to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), this act requires employers to provide unpaid, job protected leave of up to 12 weeks during each 12-month period. This Act makes it unlawful to refuse to grant a request for an employee to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid protected leave to during any 12-month period for qualifying conditions or qualifying exigency. Qualifying conditions for granting leave include bonding with a new child or caring for themselves or a family member with a serious medical condition (excluding pregnancy). Qualifying exigencies include an employee’s call to active duty or an employee’s spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent called to active duty in the Armed Forces. The definition of a family member has been extended to include grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings. Bonding with a new child has also extended to include the child of a domestic partner. Since this definition for the California Family Rights Act is broader than the FMLA, this could result in a situation where an employee is entitled to 24 weeks of leave.

AB 979 deals with diversity among public company boards. Publicly held corporations with their principal office in California must have 1 director from an “underrepresented community” by December 31, 2021. Boards with 5-8 members must have 2 directors from an “underrepresented community” and boards with over 9 members must have 3. Underrepresented community member means a member of the Black, African-American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian, Alaska Native, or LGBTQ community.

AB 3075 deals with successor liability for wage/hour judgments. Successor businesses are now liable for their predecessors’ unpaid wage and hour judgments. This bill was implemented to avoid allowing companies to escape judgment by dissolving the entity and reforming a substantially similar entity. A “successor” under this bill is defined as:

  • Using substantially the same facilities and workforce to offer the same services;
  • Has substantially the same owners or managers;
  • Employs as a managing agent any person who directly controlled the wages and hours of the affected workforce; and
  • Operates a business in the same industry and has an owner, partner, officer, or director who is an immediate family member of an owner, partner, officer, or director of the judgment debtor. 

AB 2992 details the time off allowed for crime or abuse victims. The existing law before 2021 allowed an employee time off if they directly were a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault. The new law extends to any employee that is the victim of a “crime or abuse”. A crime refers to any crime or felony committed by an adult. An employer may not discharge, discriminate, or retaliate against the employee and must provide time off. The time off is granted for employees to seek medical attention, receive services, obtain counseling, or participate in safety planning.

Finally, an employer may have a mandatory vaccination policy in its employment contracts as of January 1, 2021. The Equal Opportunity Commission guidance suggests that an employer may have this policy with several restrictions:

  • An employer must make exceptions for employees with disabilities that may prevent them from receiving vaccines.
  • An employer must accommodate religious practices that conflict with vaccination.
  • An employer may not have in its policy anything concerning the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). For vaccines requiring genetic disclosures, an employer must make sure to provide a policy that is nondiscriminatory against employees or applicants because of genetic information.

Uplift Law prides itself on giving our clients the best service. If you have any questions regarding these new laws or simply have legal needs please contact us.

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