New California Law Targets Warehouses—and Perhaps All Employers That Use Performance Metrics

A new California law, Assembly Bill (AB) No. 701, provides new regulatory scrutiny of job performance quotas at warehouse distribution centers. The stated purpose of the law is to ensure that the use of production quotas do not penalize workers for taking meal and rest breaks, using the restroom, and complying with other health and safety standards.

Supreme Court Seeks Solicitor General Input on Preemption Challenge to California’s AB 5

On November 15, 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States issued an order concerning the California Trucking Association’s (CTA) challenge to California’s independent contractor law, Assembly Bill (AB) 5. The Supreme Court‘s order invited the United States Solicitor General (SG) to file a submission describing the federal government’s position with respect to this case and the question CTA posed to the Court that the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (FAAAA) preempts AB 5.

Federal OSHA’s COVID-19 ETS: Will It Change the Next ETS for California?

On November 4, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an emergency temporary standard (ETS) to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) was planning to update and adopt new language for the California COVID-19 ETS that would take effect in January 2022. However, California’s proposed language for the revised ETS does not match the language of OSHA’s ETS, leaving many wondering if California will now revise the proposed language to bring the California ETS into alignment with the federal standard and proceed with the “Horcher” adoption process to quickly adopt the federal OSHA requirements.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Asks Ninth Circuit to Reconsider Ruling Upholding California’s Mandatory Employment Arbitration Ban

On October 20, 2021, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the lead plaintiff challenging AB 51, filed a petition for rehearing en banc with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, seeking to reverse the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America v. Bonta, No. 20-15291 (September 16, 2021), partially upholding AB 51.

Is the Tide Turning on Website Accessibility Claims? California Court of Appeal Upholds a ‘Bona Fide Intent’ Requirement

The Court of Appeal of the State of California, Fourth Appellate District, recently handed a potentially significant website accessibility win to the business community under the Unruh Civil Rights Act (Unruh Act) when it upheld a jury verdict in Thurston v. Omni Hotels Mgmt. Corp. (Cal. Ct. App. Sept. 23, 2021), finding that the blind user of a hotel’s website reservation mechanism lacked a “bona fide intent” to make a hotel reservation.

California Imposes Significant New Restrictions on Severance and Settlement Agreements

On October 7, 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) No. 331 into law. SB 331 is known as the “Silenced No More Act.” It amends California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1001 and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and imposes significant new restrictions on severance and settlement agreements.

New California Law Allows Employers to Email Workplace Notifications to Remote Workers

To address the prevalent and ongoing practice of permitting employees to work from home, a new California law authorizes employers to provide required workplace notifications to their employees as attachments to emails. Senate Bill (SB) No. 657 was signed into law on July 16, 2021. While the new law maintains the requirement to physically display mandatory postings in the workplace, SB 657 also provides California employers with a new way to provide important notifications to employees about wage and hour issues that could help deter employers from class and collective action liability regarding such claims.

California Court of Appeal Confirms Trial Courts’ Inherent Power to Strike or Limit Unmanageable PAGA Lawsuits

On September 9, 2021, a California Court of Appeal issued its ruling in Wesson v. Staples the Office Superstore, LLC, delivering a welcome victory to employers battling representative actions under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA). Under the 2004 law, an “aggrieved employee” is empowered to commence a PAGA representative action on behalf of all other “aggrieved employees” to seek civil penalties for alleged violations of the California Labor Code.

Ninth Circuit Upholds Portions of California Law Prohibiting Use of Mandatory Arbitration Agreements

In a split 2-1 decision that likely raises more questions than it answers, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals cast some doubt upon the ability of employers to implement mandatory arbitration agreements with their employees. In Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America v. Bonta, the Ninth Circuit upheld portions of California Labor Code section 432.6, which prohibits employers from making arbitration agreements a condition of employment and imposes significant criminal and civil sanctions for violations. The Ninth Circuit’s decision holds that arbitration agreements signed by parties remain enforceable (even if they violate section 432.6), while parties who refused to sign an arbitration agreement may still seek a remedy against the employer under the statute.

Governor Newsom Expected to Sign Bill Creating New Labor Code Violations, Expanding Cal/OSHA Subpoena Powers

The California Legislature will soon send Senate Bill (SB) No. 606 to Governor Gavin Newsom, who is likely to sign the bill into law. The bill would make substantial changes to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s (Cal/OSHA) citation structure by creating two new categories of violations: “enterprise-wide” and “egregious.” The bill would also provide Cal/OSHA with additional subpoena power during investigations.

California Wage Theft Bill Would Raise the Stakes for Compliance

California Assembly Bill (AB) 1003 would create a new type of grand theft in the state: a company’s “intentional theft of wages” of more than $950 from any individual employee, or $2,350 total from 2 or more employees, in a 12-month period. The bill requires that the theft be intentional, through fraud and while knowing that the wages are due to the employee. The bill also defines “wages” to include “wages, gratuities, benefits, or other compensation.”

San Francisco Bay Area and City of Berkeley Issue Mask Mandates for Even Fully-Vaccinated Individuals

On August 2, 2021, the City and County of San Francisco updated Health Officer Order No. C19-07y, entitled “Encouraging COVID-19 Vaccine Coverage and Reducing Disease Risks (Safer Return Together),” to require all individuals, including the fully vaccinated, to wear face coverings in indoor public settings, with some exceptions.

California Mid-Year Legislative Update: Family Leave, Sick Pay, and Work Quotas

The pandemic continues to loom large over the California legislature this year, as indicated by the bills advancing through the legislative process. Below is a summary of the major employment law bills that are working their way through the state Assembly and Senate. The bills pertain to the expansion of medical and sick leave, postings for employees working remotely, and warehouse production quotas for facilities that have ramped up operations during the pandemic.

City of Pasadena Imposes Indoor Mask Requirement on Even Fully-Vaccinated Individuals

On July 21, 2021, the City of Pasadena health officer issued an order titled, “Order for Wearing of Face Masks in Public Settings.” As did the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s (LACDPH) health order of the previous week, the City of Pasadena’s health order requires all individuals “regardless of vaccination status” to wear face coverings in “all indoor public settings, venues, gatherings, and businesses.”

Los Angeles County Imposes Indoor Mask Requirement on Fully Vaccinated

On Friday, July 16, 2021, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) issued a health order requiring all individuals regardless of vaccination status to wear face coverings in “[a]ll indoor public settings, venues, gatherings, and businesses.”  The order’s list of locations in which all individuals must wear face coverings includes “offices, retail, restaurants, theaters, family entertainment centers, meetings, and state and local government offices serving the public.”

California Supreme Court’s Decision on Premium Payments for Meal, Rest, and Recovery Break Violations

On July 15, 2021, the California Supreme Court issued a decision that will increase dramatically California employers’ potential liability for missed meal, rest, and recovery breaks. In Ferra v. Loews Hollywood Hotel, LLC, the court unanimously held that employers must pay premium payments to employees for missed meal, rest, and recovery breaks at the employee’s “regular rate of pay” instead of their base hourly rate, as many employers were doing.

New Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Regulations Take Effect IMMEDIATELY

On June 17, 2021, at the end of yet another chaotic day in administrative rulemaking, California’s new COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) finally became effective. The ETS bring substantial changes to the COVID-19 regulatory requirements with which employers have struggled since California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) initial ETS took effect almost 7 months ago, on November 30, 2020.

Cal/OSHA Publishes Revised Proposed COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard Revisions for June 17 Standards Board Vote

On June 11, 2021, the Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) published proposed revisions to the current Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). On June 17, 2021, the Standards Board will meet again to vote on adopting proposed revisions. This is the third updated revision that the Standards Board has considered in the last month. Until the new ETS takes effect, employers must comply with the November 30, 2020, ETS, which remains in place.

California OSH Board Votes to Withdraw Latest Changes to the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard and Vote on a New Revision on June 17, 2021

On June 9, 2021, the Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) voted to withdraw the previously submitted Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) changes and instead consider further revisions at its June 17, 2021, meeting.

Lactation Accommodations in California: 5 Steps to Ensuring Compliant Lactation Policies

On January 1, 2020, California’s new lactation accommodation law, Senate Bill (SB) 142, went into effect and imposed detailed requirements for employers to provide lactation rooms and other facilities, along with new policies and procedures to administer lactation break programs. Just two months later, most California employees started working remotely from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic and state and local ordinances. Thus, most employers had not yet fully implemented the new accommodation requirements before employees left the workplace. Now that many employees are getting vaccinated and returning to the workplace, it is a good time for California employers to review their lactation accommodation policies to ensure that they fully comply with the law.

Surprise Flip-Flop at Cal/OSHA Standards Board: Motion to Adopt Sweeping Changes to the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard Passes

On June 3, 2021, the Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) was initially unable to pass the proposed changes to the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS)  after a daylong online hearing with more than 500 individuals logged on to the meeting and 5 hours of public comment. The Standards Board had previously decided to table the expected vote on Cal/OSHA’s revisions to its COVID-19 ETS at their May 20, 2021, meeting and requested an updated revision for the June 3, 2021, vote. After a break in the proceedings, the Board agreed to have another vote and passed the proposed regulation in a stunning turn of events.

Cal/OSHA Standards Board Reschedules Vote on COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard Revisions

On May 20, 2021, the Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) decided to table the expected vote on Cal/OSHA’s revisions to its COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). Instead, the Standards Board requested that Cal/OSHA draft a new proposed regulation for the Standard Board’s consideration during a special June 3, 2021, meeting.