On September 17, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill No. 1383, which repealed the current California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and eliminated the California New Parent Leave Act, replacing those statutes with a new CFRA, which can be found at California Government Code Section 12945.2, et seq.
We previously reported on COVID-19–related employment lawsuits that we tracked from late March 2020 through early May 2020. Since then, the number of lawsuits has steadily risen as employers have resumed operations after shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders were lifted and students returned to school in virtual or hybrid environments. To track this litigation and to identify trends, we developed an Interactive COVID-19 Litigation Tracker that details where COVID-19–related litigation is taking place by state, the industries affected, and the types of claims asserted against employers and educational institutions.
On September 17, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) voted unanimously to pursue the drafting and adoption of a California COVID-19 safety regulation. The emergency regulation would cover all workers in California regardless of industry segment.
On September 17, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 685 into law, enacting California Labor Code Section 6409.6 and amending other state statutes. As explained further below, Section 6409.6 obligates employers to notify employees, the employees’ exclusive representative (such as a union), and subcontractors, within one business day of an employer’s receiving notice of a potential COVID-19 workplace exposure from a “qualifying individual.”
On September 9, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill (AB) 1867, which requires large employers and some health care providers to provide up to 80 hours of paid leave for COVID-19–related reasons. The new law also codifies the governor’s previously issued executive order setting forth paid sick leave and handwashing requirements for food sector workers, creates a small business family leave mediation pilot program, and addresses enforcement issues in California’s pre-COVID-19 paid sick leave law.
On July 7, 2020, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors adopted an emergency ordinance to establish supplemental paid sick leave for COVID-19 related reasons. The ordinance took effect on July 8, 2020, and will remain in effect through December 31, 2020. It applies only to unincorporated areas of San Mateo County, California.
In Davidson v. O’Reilly Auto Enterprises, LLC, No. 18-56188 (August 3, 2020), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals addressed whether a district court abused its discretion in denying class certification for an employee’s claim for improper rest breaks under California law where the employer allegedly had a facially defective written rest break policy.
On May 20, 2020, worker advocates submitted a petition for an emergency COVID-19 safety standard demanding additional COVID-19 regulations for those employees not covered by the Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) standard . The ATD standard was codified in 2009 “to protect employees who are at increased risk of contracting certain airborne infections due to their work activities.” The petition included specific requests to adopt standards related to social distancing, ventilation systems, personal hygiene, personal protective equipment (PPE), employee training, and recordkeeping.
On August 7, 2020, the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) published guidance regarding the City of San Francisco’s “Temporary Right to Reemployment Following Layoff Due to COVID-19 Pandemic Emergency Ordinance.” Also known as the “Back to Work” emergency ordinance, the ordinance took effect on July 3, 2020, requiring San Francisco employers with 100 or more employees to offer reemployment to eligible employees laid off because of the COVID-19 pandemic when the employers rehire for the same or similar job classifications.
Despite all that is going on in the world, the California legislature has been busy this year. Below is a summary of the major employment law bills that are working their way through the state Assembly and Senate.
On July 22, 2020, Health Officer Tomás J. Aragón of the City and County of San Francisco issued Public Health Emergency Order No. C19-12c, entitled, “Order of the Health Officer of the City and County of San Francisco Generally Requiring Members of the Public and Workers to Wear Face Coverings.”
On July 24, 2020, the State of California released its “COVID-19 Employer Playbook for a Safe Reopening.” According to the playbook, its purpose is to help employers “plan and prepare for reopening their business[es] and to support a safe, clean environment for workers and customers.” The Employer Playbook’s table of contents lists four major areas that the playbook addresses: (1) steps employers can take to open safely; (2) what to do if a COVID-19 case occurs in the workplace; (3) enforcement and compliance; and (4) worker education. In addition, the playbook includes three appendixes consisting of employer and worker resources, enforcement and compliance contacts, and case studies illustrating the playbook’s principles.
The State of California and many California counties mandate the use of face coverings in the workplace and elsewhere. California considers the issue important enough to include a section entitled “Guidance for Employers and Workers in Enforcing Mask Requirements” in its “COVID-19 Employer Playbook for a Safe Reopening,” newly released on July 24, 2020.
As employees return to work, some employers are asking if there could be another tool to detect COVID-19 in the workplace: detection dogs. Traditionally, the military has used detection dogs to find bombs, and law enforcement has used them to sniff out narcotics, guns, electronics, or other contraband. More recently, scientists and researchers have used detection dogs to identify medical conditions.
On May 6, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom of California issued Executive Order (EO) N-62-20, creating a temporary rebuttable presumption that employees working outside of their homes who test positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, may receive workers’ compensation benefits. In doing so, the governor simplified the process for sick employees to seek certain wage replacement benefits, and therefore sought to encourage ill employees to stay home to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
On July 2, 2020, the health officer for the County of Santa Clara, California, issued a new health order titled “Establishing Mandatory Risk Reduction Measures Applicable to All Activities and Sectors to Address the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The order goes into effect on July 13, 2020.
On June 23, 2020, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed the “Back to Work” emergency ordinance. The ordinance requires certain San Francisco employers to offer reemployment to covered employees who were subjected to qualifying layoffs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
On June 16, 2020, several employees at a McDonald’s franchise in Oakland, California filed a lawsuit against their employer, in a matter entitled Hernandez v. VES McDonald’s (No. RG20064825, Superior Court of California, County of Alameda). The lawsuit consists of five plaintiffs, three of whom are employees who allege that they became sick with COVID-19 while working at the restaurant and “unknowingly” spread the disease to family and other members in their communities.
On May 19, 2020, the Long Beach City Council unanimously approved a COVID-19 Paid Supplemental Sick Leave Ordinance. This ordinance, which goes into effect immediately, follows similar measures enacted by Los Angeles County, the City of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose.
The California Department of Public Health’s newly issued “Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings” replaces a patchwork of county and municipal standards with a statewide standard mandating face coverings in businesses and other public places.
In a big win for Starbucks and all other restauranteurs, retailers, and places of public accommodation, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held in three related cases (Johnson v. Starbuck Corp., Lindsay v. Starbucks Corp., and Kong v. Starbucks Corp.) that accessible sales and service counters are not required to provide a minimum of 36 inches of usable counter space for disabled patrons, provided that the counter is no more than 36 inches high.
On June 18, 2020, the California Department of Public Health issued a statewide “Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings.” Although the guidance is not an executive order and does not refer to any authorizing legal authority, Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted, “NEW: Californians are now REQUIRED to wear face coverings in public spaces” (Emphasis in the original.)
On May 12, 2020, the City of Oakland, California, unanimously passed an emergency paid sick leave ordinance requiring employers to provide up to 80 hours of additional paid sick leave for COVID-19 related issues.
In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its continued impact on daily life, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order (EO) N-63-20 on May 7, 2020, extending certain statutory and regulatory deadlines for individuals, businesses, and governmental agencies in California. In addition to other temporary changes, EO N-63-20 extends the time for employees to file certain claims for unpaid wages with the state labor commissioner, the time for the state to issue certain workplace safety citations under the California Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the time for employers to appeal such citations.
On May 20, 2020, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) published an online harassment prevention training module designed to meet a recent California mandate that nonsupervisory employees receive one hour of harassment prevention training every two years.
Although California was one of the first states to legalize medical cannabis, and later recreational cannabis, voters and the courts have long resisted extending protections against discrimination in employment to cannabis users. In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, legalizing the use of cannabis for medical purposes, such as the treatment of anorexia, arthritis, chronic pain, and migraines.
On May 12, 2020, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), better known as Cal/OSHA, issued its COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Office Workspaces, which provides detailed guidance for operating in office workspaces to “support a safe, clean environment for employees” in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A new bill has been introduced in the California Assembly that could affect most employers and employees in the state. If passed in its current form, Assembly Bill (AB) 1844 would expand paid sick leave coverage to employees and their family members for behavioral health conditions.
On May 4, 2020, Mayor Eric Garcetti signed two new ordinances governing employee right of recall and worker retention in the City of Los Angeles. The ordinances provide certain rights and preferences to various workers whose employment has been affected by the COVID-19 crisis.