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California HR Law Updates for 2021 

in News and Features

What Employers Need to Know  Here is a brief overview of key legislation for 2021. It is recommended that employers update their company handbooks and make sure they have the latest labor law poster displayed. For more detailed information on these legislative updates, follow the links that have been provided or call Sequoia Personnel Services at (707) 445–9641 for more information on how these regulations may impact your business.     COVID-19 Exposures in the Workplace    AB 685 requires that employers provide written notice to all employees when a COVID-19 exposure has occurred in the workplace—even if they were in a different department or were not on–site at the time. This notice cannot denote the name of the potentially exposed employee, or any of their personal and/or health details per the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act [HIPPA] privacy laws. This notice must be made within one business day of the potential exposure. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) can order a shutdown if it deems that the worksite presents an imminent hazard to others’ safety. You can visit their website for more details on this topic.    Minimum-Wage Increases for Hourly and Salary Workers   Effective January 1st, 2021 employers with 26 employees or more must pay workers a minimum wage of $14.00 per hour.   Employers with 25 employees or less must pay workers a minimum wage of $13.00 per hour.   Businesses must be aware that many cities set their own hourly rates, and those local rates may also be increasing in the new year.   The minimum salary for exempt employees will also be raised to $58,240 at businesses with 26 or more employees, and $54,080 at those with 25 or less employees.   For California employees to be classified under the executive, administrative, and professional exemptions, they must be paid at least double the minimum wage and fulfill certain responsibilities.     Pay Data Reporting    Beginning in 2021, employers with 100 employees or more will need to provide wage information to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) by March 31st of each year, in accordance with SB 973. The DFEH will use the wage information to enforce equal-pay and anti-discrimination laws. Employers must use employees’ W-2’s to...

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Employee Time-Off for Voting 

in News and Features

 What Employers Need to Know About California Election Law  Election Day is right around the corner. Employers must stay compliant with California State Law requirements concerning employee voting rights and should immediately review existing company policies and practices to ensure compliance with said laws. Employers must also be prepared to deal with employee requests for time off before election days. California maintains a website that has all the pertinent information employers and employees must understand regarding their voting system.   https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/   California Statewide Election Dates:   March 3, 2020: Primary election.  November 3, 2020: General election – state and federal levels.    Under California Election Code Section 14000:    Polls Are Open From: 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Time Off: Employees are entitled to two paid hours off for voting, only if their non-working hours are insufficient for them to cast their vote.   Hours: Time off may only be taken at the beginning or end of a work shift, whichever maximizes the amount of free time for voting and minimizes time away from work, unless otherwise mutually agreed.  Employee Notice to Employer: The law requires workers to notify their employers two business days before the election if they need to take time off to vote.   Posting Requirement: Employers must post a notice of voting-time requirements at least 10 days before an election. Employers can satisfy this requirement by posting a copy of the Time Off to Vote notice.  California Voter Registration   Automatic Voter Registration:  Beginning 2016, any individuals who visited the California Department of Motor Vehicles to acquire or renew a driver’s license could automatically register to vote.   Online Voter Registration: California has an online voter registration system. Residents can register to vote at: http://registertovote.ca.gov/  Voting in California  Deadline: The deadline to register to vote is 15 days before Election Day.  Voter Requirements: To vote in California, an individual must be a U.S. citizen and California resident who is 18 years or older on Election Day. The voter cannot be in a state or federal prison, on parole for the conviction of a felony and cannot be found mentally incompetent to vote by a court.   Conditional Voter Registration: A new safety net for Californians who miss the deadline to register to vote or update...

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Reimbursement of Expenses for Remote Workers

in News and Features

  In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many employers are permitting, or even requiring, that employees work from home. A consequence to this is that some states mandate employers to reimburse their employees for certain expenses incurred as a result of their remote employment – and California is one of those states!   Employers are required to reimburse employees for reasonable expenses they incur for equipment and services necessary to work from home. This can include cell phone, internet and computer usage expenses. Under federal law, employers are generally obliged to reimburse expenses incurred by their employees if those expenses reduce their pay scale below minimum wage standards.  California Labor Code requires employers to cover “all necessary expenditures or losses” that workers incur while doing their jobs. Those costs can include the purchase of office equipment and reimbursement for utilities, i.e. electricity, internet or broadband and phone service.   California businesses must have compliant labor policies for expense reimbursements and workplace safety. Now, this needs to include policies that specifically address expenses incurred by a remote workforce. However, some of these policies may be designed to stay in effect only until staff return to the physical worksite.    Reimbursements  Monthly payments of $25, $40, $50, or $75 for utilities are accepted amounts, but employers may want to do some market research to justify the reimbursement amount provided. Employees who feel the amount is too low should have an avenue to appeal.  Monthly reimbursements can vary by category of worker. For example, remote IT teams might need faster, more expensive broadband than their co-workers so their expense allotment may be higher.  Employers can require employees to provide additional information (such as utility bills) to determine what percentage of a utility is used for work purposes. Calculating utility reimbursements to the penny or providing a small monthly stipend may leave employers vulnerable to claims of failure to compensate their employees fairly. It is better to stay on the side of generosity as to avoid allegations of labor code violations.  Internet reimbursements can be handled as nontaxable expense reimbursements provided the employer is able to justify how they arrived at the amount. However, some monthly payments—such as a car allowance that...

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Back to Work – Employee Safety Concerns on Returning to Work 

in News and Features

Get ready to have new policies in place and answer employee questions   Your employees may have many questions and concerns after returning to work. It is your job, as the employer, to address these questions and concerns regarding employees’ health and safety as we face COVID-19. Below is a probable list of questions employees may ask as you reopen your business. Do I have to return to work?  What steps will you take to keep me safe?  Will you implement social distancing between co-workers?  Will you take mine and my co-worker’s temperatures daily?  Will everyone be required to wear a mask and gloves?  Will you provide masks and gloves?  How often are you cleaning the workplace?   How will you protect me from customers that might put me at risk?  What if a co-worker gets sick? How will I know?   What do I do if I know my co-work actively abuses safety practices at work or in their personal lives, putting me and others at risk?  What happens if I get sick? Will I get paid for time off?   What if someone in my family gets sick and I have to care for them?    These questions may require new company policies  While no two businesses are alike, and despite the fact that the business community has never dealt with a challenge like this, there are still guidelines and labor laws that apply to these situations. Here are the recommended steps your company can take to prepare for and welcome your returning workforce:    Step 1: Gather your Management Team and discuss your COVID-19 “Return to Work” policies. Create a special section in your employee handbook called, “Public Health Emergency Work Policies as Related to COVID-19.”    Step 2: Create a list of current policies that pertain to this topic, such as your companys’ existing sick leave, medical leave and other policies as they relate to health and time off. Many of these policies are still applicable to situations regarding COVID-19.     Step 3: Review and incorporate new COVID-19 related laws from your state and county into a safety plan and policy. If you do business within Oregon please visit https://govstatus.egov.com/or-covid-19/ to review requirements for your business-type, as well as...

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TELEWORKING: Productivity tips for working remotely.

in News and Features

During this challenging time, employees are now being asked to work from home. Here’s a list of tips that can help both employers and employees be more productive when working remotely. TIPS FOR SUPERVISORS WHO MANAGE REMOTE WORKERS  Profiles of successful employees who work remotely have the following attributes: are proactive and self-initiating by nature, are project-driven and comfortable working alone- but know how to communicate regularly to a supervisor or team. Remote employees work best when there are deliverable deadlines to keep everyone focused and on task.  Managers must communicate well and often with the remote worker. It is recommended to set up weekly check-ins to prevent isolation and to create a workflow rhythm. Both employer and employee should utilize video chat platforms so that it becomes second nature to all involved.     EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE If teleworking is required—meaning there is no choice due to a community health crisis, employers may be financially responsible for providing the proper equipment to enable an employee to work remotely. Employees will need to have a good, adjustable chair, or a stand-up desk to help with comfort and ergonomics. Besides the required computer equipment for remote connections, employees may want to install flexible monitor arms, touchscreens, wireless keyboards, and a mouse. Provide employees with sound-blocking earplugs or earmuffs which protect against chaotic households and helps when employees need to concentrate. Set up video conferencing software and tools before meetings. Employees must make sure to arrange for no interruptions during the conference—remember that European ambassador who was interrupted by his toddler? There’s no guarantee your company or client will be that understanding. Remind employees to turn off all the unnecessary notifications on their phone to avoid interruptions when conferencing, including buzzing microwaves, doorbells, and timer bells.  Emergency connectedness/backup work: Set up a local NAS for shared files and backups. Employees must factor in a REGULARLY SCHEDULED back up of their work to the cloud. Have a VPN for those days, which is also essential if your local network connection goes out. If your local ISP is down and employees are on a deadline, everyone will want to know what location to travel to that has Wi-Fi and bandwidth.    EMPLOYEE TIPS...

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