Governor Gavin Newsom signed S.B. 525 into law adding new minimum wage requirements to Sections 1182.14 and 1182.15 of the California Labor Code. These new sections establish five comprehensive minimum wage schedules for “covered health care employees”, which includes contracted and subcontracted employees. Effective June 1, 2024, “covered health care facilities” will be required to implement the applicable minimum wage schedule, depending on the nature of the employer, as set forth by the law. In general, the law preempts any local ordinances setting wages for healthcare workers. To determine the law’s applicability, health care providers across California must consider (1) whether they meet the definition of a “covered health care facility” and, if so, (2) who within their workforce meets the definition of a “covered health care employee”.Continue Reading California enacts increase in the minimum wage for covered health care employees
On October 10, 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom approved Senate Bill 331 which, effective January 1, 2022, significantly expands restrictions relating to non-disclosure and non-disparagement provisions in many settlement and separation agreements.
First, Senate Bill 331 expands the existing prohibitions on non-disclosure and non-disparagement provisions in settlement agreements. Existing law, under section 1001 of the California Code of Civil Procedure, already prohibits settlement agreements from having non-disclosure or non-disparagement provisions that prevent the disclosure of facts relating to a claim filed in a civil or administrative action regarding sex-based claims, including sex-based discrimination, sexual harassment, or related retaliation. Effective January 1, 2022, this amendment expands the prohibition on non-disclosure and non-disparagement provisions that prevent the disclosure of facts relating to a claim, outside of sex-based claims, to include discrimination, harassment, or retaliation claims based on any protected category under section 12940 of the Government Code, such as race, religion, national origin, and disability.
Continue Reading California expands restrictions on non-disclosure provisions
It’s that time of the year again! The deadline for California Governor Gavin Newsom to sign, approve without signing, or veto bills on his desk was October 10, 2021. Now that the dust has settled, we have compiled a comprehensive list of bills signed by the governor that will impact employers. We also highlight bills…
A split Ninth Circuit panel vacated a 2020 preliminary injunction that blocked the enforcement of California’s A.B. 51, which prohibits mandatory arbitration clauses in employment contracts. If the majority decision stands, it will mean that California employers can no longer require their employees or new hires to sign arbitration agreements (among other types of waivers)…
Late last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (the FDA) issued the first approvals for a COVID-19 vaccine. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the EEOC) issued guidance on the interplay between federal anti-discrimination law and vaccine-related issues, including the permissibility of mandatory employer vaccination policies. The below FAQs address some of the more salient questions surrounding such policies and their implementation, as well as other workplace issues triggered by the vaccine. There are undeniably more questions than answers at present with respect to vaccine-related workplace issues. Before taking any material workplace action with respect to the vaccine, therefore, please consult with a Reed Smith employment lawyer. We also have a downloadable version of our FAQs.
Q: Can employers adopt a mandatory employee vaccination policy?
A: Generally speaking, yes. In guidance issued in late May 2021, the EEOC took the position that mandatory vaccination policies are generally permissible under federal anti-discrimination laws. Just a few weeks later, in June 2021, a federal court – in the first ruling on this issue – echoed this sentiment in concluding that such policies are generally permissible. The following month, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a detailed memo reaching the same conclusion.
The two primary exceptions to the general permissibility of employer-mandated vaccination policies are for employees with disabilities and for those with a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or custom. If an employee refuses to be vaccinated and objects to a mandatory vaccination policy on one of these grounds, the employer must engage in the so-called interactive process with the employee and, subject to the “undue hardship” standards discussed below, provide the employee with a reasonable accommodation in line with applicable law.
In addition to legally required accommodations, the EEOC also cautions employers to be cognizant of any potential disparate impact created by a vaccine mandate.
Q: Are there state or local laws that address mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies?
A: Employers must pay attention to state laws in the jurisdiction(s) where they operate. Several states have introduced legislation attempting to limit private employers’ ability to mandate COVID-19 vaccines. To date, such efforts have been without success other than in Montana.
Q: If an employer adopts a mandatory employee vaccination policy, how should it respond to an employee who indicates that they are unable to receive a COVID-19 vaccination because of a disability or a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or custom?
A: As noted, the employer must engage in an interactive process with the employee. When an employee objects to vaccination, they are requesting an accommodation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) (for a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or custom) or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (for a disability). The employer must provide a reasonable accommodation unless the accommodation would pose an undue hardship. Undue hardship is defined under Title VII as an accommodation that poses a “more than de minimis” cost or burden. For the ADA, undue hardship is more onerous to establish and is defined as creating significant difficulty or expense for the employer.
Continue Reading To mandate or not? FAQs on mandatory vaccine programs for employers
On February 25, 2021, the California Supreme Court decided Donohue v. AMN Services, LLC (Donohue). In that case, the court held that (1) employers cannot round time in the meal period context and (2) time records showing noncompliant meal periods raise a rebuttable presumption of a meal period violation. Accordingly, the court’s decision has significant implications for employers who rely on time keeping systems that round time during employee meal breaks.
California’s meal period laws are governed primarily by California Labor Code section 512 and the Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Order No. 4. Pursuant to these regulations, an employee is entitled to a 30 minute meal break no later than the end of the fifth hour of work and another 30 minute meal break no later than the end of the tenth hour of work. An employer must provide the opportunity for a compliant meal period, but need not police it. If an employee voluntarily chooses not to take a meal break, then there is no meal period violation. However, if an employer fails to provide a compliant meal break and an employee does not voluntarily waive it, then the employer must provide that employee a premium pay, or one additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of compensation for each workday a meal period is not provided. To avoid such penalties, an employer must provide its employees with complete and timely meal breaks whenever required by law.
Continue Reading California Supreme Court rejects rounding time for meal breaks
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), requiring employers with 50-500 employees to provide supplemental paid sick leave and paid family leave to their employees, and California’s statewide COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave requirement expired on December 31, 2020. While employers may voluntarily continue to provide FFCRA and receive tax credits through March 31, 2021, the FFCRA mandates are now voluntary for employers to continue absent federal legislative action. Despite this, numerous California counties and cities have extended their COVID-19 paid sick leave ordinances and imposed additional requirements for employers. To date, these include: Los Angeles (City and County), City of Long Beach, Sacramento (City and County), San Francisco, City of Oakland, San Mateo County, Sonoma County, Santa Rosa, and San Jose.
City of Los Angeles. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti recently revised an order requiring an employer to provide COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (SPSL) if it has 500 or more employees in the city or 2,000 or more employees nationally. The February 10, 2021 revised order expanded coverage and provides SPSL benefits to employees employed with the same employer for 60 days, and expanded coverage to employees hired on or after March 5, 2020. Most importantly, the revised order mandates that employers calculate SPSL based on the employee’s respective two-week average pay over the last 60 days of employment. The order remains in effect until two calendar weeks after the expiration of the County of Los Angeles local emergency period.
Continue Reading Brief refresher for California employers: 2021 updates to local COVID-19 paid sick leave requirements