What You Need to Know About California Employment Law in 2020

New Year’s Eve: a time to reflect back and look ahead. Many of us will celebrate the beginning of a new decade by partying with friends and family, as well as making resolutions for a better year. In the midst of the celebrations, employers and employees alike are planning for a host of changes to California employment law. To help you know what you can expect from California workplaces in the 20s, here is a list of some of the most significant legal changes.

Independent Contractors

To protect workers from employer abuse, California expanded the definition of an independent contractor with the ABC test in 2018. The California Supreme Court established this set of criteria to determine a worker’s classification status when the worker brings a claim against an employer under the California Wage Orders. If the worker does not meet the criteria of the ABC test, the employer cannot treat them like an independent contractor and must provide employee benefits. Because of the stringent qualifications, a significant portion of “independent contractors” in California will need to become employees if they are to continue working for their employers.

With Assembly Bill 5, the ABC test will now determine worker classification under the California Labor Code, the California Unemployment Insurance Code, and the Workers’ Compensation statutes.

These laws encompass any claims involving:

  • Unreimbursed expenses
  • Paid sick leave
  • Paid family leave
  • Disability insurance

Ultimately, this law is designed to prevent intentional employee misclassification by imposing severe penalties and granting enforcement authority to the state and cities.

AB5 includes numerous stipulations and qualifications for certain types of employees. If you are unsure whether you will be considered an independent contractor or employee, seek legal support from a qualified professional with experience in employment law.

Mandatory Arbitration Agreements

A mandatory arbitration agreement is a clause in an employment contract requiring the employee to negotiate and settle claims in a private arbitration setting. Historically, these agreements have prevented employees who have suffered from discrimination or harassment from obtaining justice in a court of law. Employers benefit because they choose the arbitrator themselves, and the claim never becomes public, as it would in a lawsuit.

In 2020, however, California will prohibit most mandatory arbitration agreements in contracts involving violations of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and the California Labor Code. This statute also includes language prohibiting employers from threatening, discriminating, terminating, or retaliating against employees (or potential employees) for not signing these agreements.

This change will not affect any contracts signed, changed, or extended before January 1, 2020. It also applies only to arbitration agreements where the signee’s employment is contingent upon their agreement.

Employer groups have already challenged the statute, arguing that arbitration agreements benefit both employers and employees. They argue that arbitration offers a streamlined, cost-effective, and private opportunity to handle sensitive yet serious issues (e.g. sexual harassment).

For valid arbitration agreements in 2020 and beyond, employers must pay fees and costs of arbitration within 30 days. Otherwise, they will waive their right to arbitration and must proceed in court.

“No-Rehire” Clauses

As per Assembly Bill 749, any “no-rehire” clause in a settlement agreement after an employment dispute will be invalid if signed on or after January 1, 2020. One exception to this prohibition is if the employer has reasonably and ethically determined that the employee sexually assaulted or harassed someone.

Paid Family Leave

Senate Bill 83 extends paid family leave from 6 weeks to 8 weeks. Employees can use this paid time off to care for a newborn child (under 1 year of age) or a seriously ill family member.

Lactation Accommodations

SB 142 adds section 1034 to the Labor Code and modifies sections 1030, 1031, and 1033. In 2020, employers will need to provide employees with a reasonable amount of break time to “express milk” whenever they need to.

Furthermore, the employer must provide the employee with a designated space (other than a bathroom) that is:

  • In close proximity to their work area
  • Private/protected from interruption
  • Safe and clean
  • Furnished with a place to sit, a sink with running water, a refrigerator/cooler, electricity or devices (i.e. extension cords/charging stations to operate pump), and a surface upon which to place personal items and the breast pump.

Employers must expand their existing policies to include these changes and inform their employees of their rights to the accommodations.

Statute of Limitations

Before 2020, a person could only file charges of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation within 1 year of the incident(s). Assembly Bill 9 expands the statute of limitations to 3 years, and “filing” now refers to filing the initial intake form with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing—not the formal complaint.

Contact Our Firm to Learn More About Your Rights

This is not a comprehensive list of new employment laws, and the statutes may affect each type of worker in a unique way. If you are looking for fully-personalized legal support, our team at Limonjyan Law Group is more than prepared to help you navigate these changes. We have years of experience protecting workers’ rights, and we look forward to empowering you with the knowledge you need and, if necessary, representing you in a court of law.

Get started today by calling (213) 377-6707 or schedule your initial consultation online.

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