On March 16, 2021, the City Council of Costa Mesa, California, passed an urgency ordinance establishing premium pay for retail grocery and pharmacy workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Costa Mesa is a large city in Orange County located southeast of Los Angeles. The ordinance requires that large retail establishments that sell groceries or prescription and nonprescription drugs in Costa Mesa provide their workers with premium pay of $4.00 for each hour worked. The ordinance took effect immediately and will expire 120 days from its effective date.
Within days, California employers may have to provide employees with even more COVID-19–related paid leave. On March 18, 2021, the California Legislature passed Senate Bill 95, which creates new Labor Code Section 248.2 and Labor Code Section 248.3. These new Labor Code sections provide covered employees and in-home supportive service providers with up to 80 new hours of COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave. As explained below, the bill is far more expansive than the California COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave statute that expired on December 31, 2020. The new legislation covers more employers and requires paid sick leave for many more reasons. If Governor Newsom signs SB 95, the law will take effect 10 days later and expire on September 30, 2021, unless extended.
On March 15, 2021, the City Council of West Hollywood added new categories of workers to its existing hero pay mandate of $5.00 per hour worked for large-chain grocery store employees. The new ordinance goes into effect on April 16, 2021, and expires on August 16, 2021.
The California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) recently updated its “Guide to COVID-19 Related Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]” to include wage and hour issues and vaccinations.
On March 1, 2021, the City Council of San Mateo, California, adopted “An Emergency Ordinance Requiring Large Grocery Stores and Large Drugstores to Provide Hazard Pay to their Employees” to ease the burdens caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. San Mateo is an incorporated city located in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Employers recognize that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that they pay nonexempt employees overtime wages for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek. Additionally, the FLSA imposes recordkeeping requirements on employers regarding the hours worked by their nonexempt employees. A recent Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision, U.S. Department of Labor v. Five Star Automatic Fire Protection, LLC, illustrates the danger to employers when they fail to keep complete timekeeping records of their nonexempt employees’ work.
On March 11, 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021—a $1.9 trillion economic relief package. While the legislation marks the first major legislative victory for President Biden and the administration, it is the sixth federal legislative relief package aimed at addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout. The legislation continues some programs established in these previous efforts, but it also adds some important components. Set forth below are some of the major provisions of the American Rescue Plan Act.
On March 1, 2021, the City Council of Pomona, California, passed an ordinance that establishes premium pay for retail food workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pomona is an incorporated city located in Los Angeles County and is not subject to the county’s hero pay ordinance.
On March 2, 2021, the City Council of Santa Ana, California, passed an urgency ordinance establishing premium pay for grocery and retail pharmacy workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Santa Ana is the county seat of Orange County, located southeast of Los Angeles.
On February 25, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California denied a motion for preliminary injunction brought by the California Grocers Association (CGA) against the City of Long Beach. In California Grocers Association v. City of Long Beach, CGA asked the court to stop the city from enforcing its Premium Pay for Grocery Workers Ordinance, one of the many “hero pay” or “hazard pay” ordinances enacted by California localities in the past several weeks.
Taking a meal break in California is no simple affair. Culminating seven years of litigation involving one California employer, on February 25, 2021, the Supreme Court of California issued its unanimous opinion in Donohue v. AMN Services, LLC, resolving two questions regarding California meal periods. The court’s opinion also raised, but did not resolve, questions regarding meal period compliance that will likely challenge employers and litigants for years.
On February 1, 2021, in an unpublished opinion resolving a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) attorney’s fees dispute, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in Batista v. South Florida Womans Health Associates, Inc., struck another blow against unreasonable plaintiffs’ counsel seeking “reasonable” fees.
On February 3, 2021, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) updated its frequently asked questions (FAQs) to make clear that employers can seek an extension for reporting year 2020—known as a request for an “enforcement deferral period”—as to its newly enacted pay data reporting requirement that reports are otherwise due on March 31, 2021.
On February 16, 2021, the City Council of San Leandro, California, passed an ordinance titled “Retail Food Worker Hazard Pay Ordinance,” which establishes premium pay for retail food workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. San Leandro is an incorporated city located in Alameda County in the San Francisco Bay Area.
On February 23, 2021, the City Council of Irvine, California, passed a hero pay ordinance entitling retail grocery store and drug store workers premium pay for hours worked during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to pay nonexempt employees at least minimum wage for all hours worked up to 40 hours in a workweek and time and one-half for all hours worked over 40 hours in the same workweek. An exception to this rule exists for volunteers, who are not categorized as “employees” under the statute. Typically, volunteers are individuals who donate their time to non-profit, civic, religious, and other charitable organizations.
On February 16, 2021, the City Council of West Hollywood, California, passed an urgency ordinance establishing premium pay for grocery workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On January 27, 2021, the City Council of Montebello, California, passed an ordinance titled “Premium Pay for Grocery and Drug Store Workers Ordinance.” Montebello is an incorporated city located in Los Angeles County, California. The ordinance requires employers to provide grocery and drug store workers with premium pay of $4.00 for each hour worked. The ordinance took effect immediately and expires in 180 days, unless otherwise extended.
On February 10, 2021, the City Council of Coachella, California, passed the “Premium Pay for Agricultural, Grocery, Restaurant, and Retail Pharmacy Workers Ordinance.” Coachella is located in Riverside County, California. Other cities in the state that have enacted similar measures in 2021 include Montebello, in Los Angeles County, and Oakland, in Alameda County.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the global economy, and employers are increasingly considering which are the most and least employer-friendly places new offices, distribution centers, and operational locations, both during the pandemic and after emerging from it. The Arizona State University Center for the Study of Economic Liberty recently released Doing Business North America 2020 (DBNA), a report analyzing and comparing data indicative of the regulatory context for business activity in a number of metropolitan areas. The report ranked 130 cities across Canada, Mexico, and the United States, based on 111 variables for determining where the best places to do business are currently (although given the ever-changing local, state, and federal landscapes, the assessment may change frequently). The variables underlying the rankings fall into six broad categories: starting a business; employing workers; obtaining electricity, land and space use; and paying taxes and resolving insolvency.
On February 2, 2021, the City Council of Oakland, California, passed the “Grocery Worker Hazard Pay Emergency Ordinance” to provide a boost in pay for frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Minnesota employers will be heading back to the drawing board to revise their handbook disclaimers. The Minnesota Supreme Court now requires specific language in policies that set out the terms and conditions for payment of certain employee benefits such as payouts of vacation and paid time off (PTO).
California Attorney General (AG) Xavier Becerra recently announced that he has created the Worker Rights and Fair Labor Section, which will fall under the California Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Division of Public Rights. This new section will be tasked with protecting workers against workplace issues such as wage theft, health and safety violations, and employee misclassification.
With the onslaught of the pandemic in 2020, many employers were busy dealing with staffing issues, safety concerns, and COVID-19–related legislation. There may have been little to no time to address handbook policies. With many changes on the horizon in 2021 under President Biden’s administration and the adaptations in the working environment due to COVID-19, it may be a good time for employers to turn to the company handbook to ensure it is up to date. This article will highlight five areas to which employers may want to give special attention in 2021.
Now that the inauguration has passed and the Biden administration has begun its work, it is a good time for retailers to take stock of the labor and employment issues that are likely to assume prominence in 2021, and to consider preparing to meet the challenges each of these issues pose. In no particular order, below are the top 10 issues that are likely to keep retail employers up at night in 2021.
Over 1,500 COVID-19–related employment lawsuits were filed in the United States in 2020. Ogletree Deakins’ Interactive COVID-19 Litigation Tracker highlights the industries impacted, locations, and types of claims in these matters.
On September 30, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a pay data reporting requirement for employers that assigns responsibility for collecting such data to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). To assist employers with this filing requirement, the DFEH recently established a web page and published answers to a a series of frequently asked questions (FAQs) that address several topics related to the upcoming filings, which are due no later than March 31, 2021.
On February 5, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published notices in the Federal Register of its proposed delay of the effective dates of the Trump administration’s regulations addressing independent contractor classification and tipped workers. The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) indicates that the delay is necessary to “provide the WHD additional opportunity to review and consider the questions of law, policy, and fact” raised by the new regulations.
On January 5, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued a decision in Kellogg v. Ball State University that expanded the scope of potential evidence plaintiffs may rely on to support their Equal Pay Act (EPA) claims. The decision serves as a warning to Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin employers to consider reviewing employee compensation to ensure compliance with pay equity requirements.
On January 25, 2021, the Seattle City Council approved Council Bill 119990 (also referred to as the “hazard pay ordinance”), which establishes $4 per hour COVID-19 hazard pay for grocery employees working in the City of Seattle. Below is a chart summarizing the key provisions of the hazard pay ordinance.