3 New Labor Laws Employers Should Know

In this episode of The Workplace podcast, CalChamber Executive Vice President and General Counsel Erika Frank is joined by employment law experts Matthew Roberts and Bianca Saad to highlight three important new labor laws passed this fall: SB 1159, AB 1867, and SB 1383.

SB 1159: Workers’ Compensation COVID-19 Presumptions

SB 1159 went into effect on September 17, 2020.

The new law codifies an earlier executive order signed by Governor Gavin Newsom that provided a rebuttable presumption that an employee’s illness related to COVID-19 is an occupational injury and therefore eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if specified criteria are met, Saad explains. The executive order applied to cases that occurred between March 19–July 5, 2020. SB 1159 also creates a rebuttable presumption for health care workers and first responders who contract COVID-19 after July 6, 2020.

The law also creates another presumption having to do with an “outbreak,” and the application of the presumption will depend on employer size, she says. If an employer has 100 or fewer employees, an “outbreak” occurs when 4 employees test positive within a two-week period. If an employer has more than 100 employees, an outbreak occurs when 4% of workers test positive.

These parameters are very specific, so it’s an important detail to pay attention to, Saad tells listeners.

The last major aspect of SB 1159 is that it imposes reporting requirements. If an employer is informed that an employee has tested positive, the employer must notify its workers’ compensation carrier within three business days of obtaining the information, Saad explains. The employer must not reveal identifying information, but must disclose the date of the positive test, address of the worksite, and the highest number of employees that were at that worksite for the previous 45-day period.

An FAQ that provides guidance on how to apply this new law is available on the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) website, Frank says.

AB 1867: Supplemental Paid Sick Leave

AB 1867 went into effect on September 9, 2020.

AB 1867 provides supplemental paid sick leave benefits to workers who are not eligible for benefits under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). While the FFCRA does not apply to employers with 500 or more employees, these large employers will now have to provide benefits under AB 1867, Saad says. Moreover, the new law applies to health care providers and employers of first responders.

Saad explains that the following three situations qualify for leave benefits:

  1. The employee is subject to a local, state or federal COVID-19-related quarantine or isolation order;
  2. The employee is advised by a health care provider to isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns; or
  3. The employee is prohibited from working by their employer due to health concerns. For example, an employee who was ordered to stay home because they were exposed to someone with COVID-19 at work would qualify for benefits.

In order to qualify for benefits under AB 1867, an employee must perform work outside their home. In other words, Saad says, employees who work remotely 100% of the time would not be eligible for benefits.

SB 1383: California Family Rights Act Expansion

SB 1383 takes effect on January 1, 2021.

Out of all the laws passed this year, SB 1383 is “the granddaddy of them all,” Roberts says.

The law, he points out, is a multi-faceted approach to revamping the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), which is California’s version of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). These two laws formerly ran together and had subtle differences between them. Starting in the new year, however, the differences between the two laws are huge.

The biggest change SB 1383 makes to the CFRA is that the CFRA will now apply to employers with just five or more employees, Roberts explains. Moreover, the New Parent Leave Act, which dealt with baby bonding time for employers of 20 or more employees, is gone and all baby bonding leave will be covered by the CFRA, Roberts says.

SB 1383 also greatly expands the list of family members for whom an employee could take leave to provide care for. A family member was traditionally defined as a spouse, child or registered domestic partner, but SB 1383 expands the definition to include grandchildren, grandparents, siblings and parents-in-law.

Employers may now encounter a scenario where an employee can take leave to care for a grandparent under CFRA and not concurrently take FMLA leave because caring for a grandparent is not eligible under the FMLA.

“What SB 1383 has done is really create two different leave allotments at this point where CFRA is now king,” Roberts tells listeners.

Another major addition is that under the new law employees will have the ability to take CFRA for a qualified military exigency. Since the FMLA already covered qualifying military exigency, the leave may now run concurrently, he says.

Lastly, SB 1383 does away with geographic eligibility requirements and the 50 employee threshold so even if an employer employs only 10 workers in California, all 10 workers will now be covered under CFRA.

SB 1383 brings into the fold many employers who have never had to deal with administering these benefits, so it is important for them to get up to speed on this law since it will take effect on January 1, Roberts says.

For a complete summary of new employment laws that will impact employers, download the CalChamber’s free white paper.

In addition, in January, the CalChamber Employment Law Updates virtual seminars will focus on covering all new laws for employers.