The California Chamber of Commerce today tagged SB 1044 (Durazo; D-Los Angeles) as a job killer bill. The bill, which is opposed by a broad-based coalition that includes more than 60 organizations, would allow any employed Californian to refuse to show up for work if they simply cite a state of emergency as the reason for absence, regardless of the relevancy or status of the emergency.
SB 1044 is scheduled to be heard today in the Senate Labor, Public Employment and Retirement committee.
Among CalChamber’s concerns with the bill are the fact that SB 1044 would give license to essential workers to skip shifts without prior permission or planning, jeopardizing public safety. Under the bill, any employer who disciplines an employee for failing to report to work due to a cited state of emergency—whether that State of Emergency actually impacts the employee or not—would be subject to a lawsuit and penalties under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA). Additionally, CalChamber believes the broad applicability of the bill raises safety concerns for other employees in the workplace because it does not require workers to give any notice to the employer if they leave or choose not to show up and does not require workers to consider the safety of others in their workplace.
CalChamber and the coalition sent a letter to the author’s office today that outlines specific reasons for opposition that include the fact that SB 1044:
- Would cripple emergency response and actually reduce workplace safety. SB 1044 contains no exceptions for essential services, such as health care workers, police or firefighters and would allow emergency response personnel to walk off the job, endangering public safety.
- Broadly defines “state of emergency” to encompass states of emergency that last for years. “State of emergency” is defined so broadly that it includes any state of emergency, local emergency, or presidential proclamation of major disaster or emergency caused by natural forces. This would encompass essentially every state of emergency.
- Exposes employers to lawsuits under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA). An employer who disciplines an employee for leaving the workplace would be subject to a lawsuit and penalties under PAGA. And any employer who replaces the worker in order to keep the workplace functioning or to provide time sensitive services could face a retaliation suit. In other words – SB 1044 gives such broad discretion to employees that if they walk away from a completely safe workplace, the employer could do little in response without risking litigation.
- Is unnecessary because existing Cal/OSHA regulations and state and federal laws include substantial safety protections, provide employees the right to a safe workplace, and protect employees from retaliation if those laws are violated.
The California Chamber of Commerce (CalChamber) is the largest broad-based business advocate to government in California. Membership represents one-quarter of the private sector jobs in California and includes firms of all sizes and companies from every industry within the state. Leveraging our front-line knowledge of laws and regulations, we provide products and services to help businesses comply with both federal and state law. CalChamber, a not-for-profit organization with roots dating to 1890, promotes international trade and investment in order to stimulate California’s economy and create jobs. Please visit our website at www.calchamber.com.