California has enacted a number of new laws for 2020. Becoming familiar with them will help you stay in compliance and avoid costly penalties. Also, be sure to update your Employee Handbook to reflect the new legislation.
California has enacted a statute, AB5, effective as of last month, that makes it much more difficult to classify workers as independent contractors.
AB5 applies a strict “ABC test” to determine whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor, and puts the burden of proof on the employer. In order to be classified as an independent contract, the worker must meet each of the following:
- (A) The worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact; AND
- (B) The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; AND
- (C) The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed.
There are some exemptions including doctors, dentists, insurance agents, lawyers, accountants, real estate agents, hairstylists, and a variety of creative professionals. AB5 also exempts business-to-business contractors subject to a 12-factor test.
Misclassification can be extremely costly for employers in legal fees, back wages and benefits, and penalties. Now is an ideal time to do an overall review of how you’ve classified your workers. Also, it’s important to consult with an employment attorney if you plan to audit your records and reclassify your contractors.
SB142 – Lactation Accommodation – requires that all employers provide a safe, private and clean lactation room that is not a bathroom. The room must have access to a power supply for breast pumps, and a sink and refrigerator that are close to the employee’s workspace. Additionally, employers must provide reasonable rest breaks to express milk. They must also develop and distribute a policy. Employers may not discharge, discriminate or retaliate against an employee for exercising rights under the law. If an employer denies reasonable breaks or adequate space to express milk, they will suffer the penalty of an additional one hour of pay for each day there is a violation. Employers with fewer than 50 employees may seek an exemption from the requirement.
SB188 – The Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act (CROWN Act) – protects employees from racial discrimination based on hairstyle. The law clarifies the definition of race for the workplace and educational institutions to include, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles, and defines protective hairstyles.
Other changes of note:
The federal minimum salary threshold for exempt employees was increased as of January 1. Note that California employers must comply with the state’s higher thresholds for their employees working in the state. For employers with at least 26 employees, the minimum annual salary for a managerial, administrative, or professional employee in California to be classified as exempt is $54,080 ($49,920 for employers with 25 or fewer employees).
California increased its minimum wage as of January 1 to $12/hour for employers with 25 employees or fewer and $13/hour for employers with 26 employees or more. Several cities within the state also increased their minimum wage. Be sure you are paying employees based on the minimum wage in the city where they work or in the state of California, whichever is higher.
Here’s a reference regarding California minimum wage increments to keep handy: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/faq_minimumwage.htm
The deadline for harassment prevention training has been extended to January 1, 2021 for most California employees.