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The information provided in this blog is intended for general information purposes only. Readers should seek the help of an HR professional for guidance on specific issues.

California Laws for Final Paychecks 

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Is it a voluntary or involuntary separation? 

California labor laws are very precise when it comes to an employee’s final check. According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, there are two essential criteria that determine how, when and where employees receive their final paycheck. The employer must categorize the employee’s termination as either voluntary or involuntary. Once that has been determined, the following will rules apply:  

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Employees Who Refuse to Return to the Workplace

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Consider granting a “Leave of Absence” for workers too scared to come back to the office 

The threat of contracting COVID19 is a serious fear for many employees and must not be underestimated nor belittled. Many employees are reluctant to return to work or return to the worksite. What are the legal alternatives to helping those employees, while maintaining the viability of your business? 

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California HR Law Updates for 2021 

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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) 4459641 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 onsite 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-2s to issue a detailed report on pay, broken down by race, ethnicity, and gender for various job categories, including administrative support workers, midlevel managers, and laborers. The state has not yet provided templates to help businesses present this information, but does offer guidance 

 

Expanded Family and Medical Leave   

Employers with at least five employees must provide up to 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for workers to bond with a baby, take medical leave, or care for relatives—including a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or domestic partner in accordance with SB 1383. This ruling expands the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), which previously granted this leave only to employees at businesses with a minimum of 50 employees. 

 

Time Off   

AB 2017: California employees, at their own discretion, may use at least half of their accrued sick leave to care for relatives, including a child, parent, spouse, registered domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling.   

AB 2992: broadens protections for crime victims and prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who are victims of crime or abuse for taking time off from work, scheduled or unscheduled, to seek related relief, such as medical attention for injuries, mental health services, or safety planning. This bill expands the provision to prohibit an employer from discharging, or discriminating or retaliating against, an employee who is a victim of crime or abuse for taking time off from work to obtain or attempt to obtain relief. 

 

Corporate Board Diversity 

By the end of 2021, SB 826 requires that all boards of California-based public companies with six or more directors have at least three female directors. The law requires five-member boards to have at least two female directors, and there must be at least one female director on boards with fewer than five directors.   

By the end of the current calendar year, AB 979 also mandates that boards include at least one director from an underrepresented community, that is defined as, “an individual who self-identifies as Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian, or Alaska Native, or who self-identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender,” per the Bill. Noncompliant companies can face fines of at least $100,000. 

 

 

Handling Political & Covid-19 Workplace Discussions 

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 Tips on keeping employees’ conversations on controversial topics civil 

As employees return to the workplace, there may be heated discussions among co-workers concerning the upcoming elections, current events, or the pandemic. Due to this, arguments and outright hostilities may erupt. If tempers flare during these heated discussions, supervisors will need to know how to handle the situation. To reduce the potential for heated discussions, it is essential to have a policy in place regarding political discussions that includes consequences for violations. 

 

Communicate with all staff any mandatory safety policies that apply to your worksite 

Establish specific return to work policies and communicate clearly to all staff your new company policies and requirements for mask-wearing, social distancing, client and co-worker contact and any new cleaning/disinfecting procedures. Through communicating and clarifying company policies upfront, antagonistic discussions can be reduced.  Remind staff that many of these workplace safety requirements are state and federally mandated. Compliance is required to remain in business. 

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Employee Time-Off for Voting 

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 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 their voter registration information for an election. This is available beginning 14 days before an election and through Election Day. 
  • Early Voting: California permits no-excuse early voting, which allows citizens to cast ballots in person at a polling place before an election. Voters must contact their local county elections office for a list of polling places that allow early voting. 
  • Absentee or Voting by Mail: All voters are eligible to vote absentee in California but must use a special application.  

Voter ID Laws in California 

California voters are not required to show identification at the polling place. A voter may be asked to provide identification at the polls if it is his/her first-time voting (this requirement applies if the individual registered by mail without providing a driver’s license number, state identification number, or the last four digits of a Social Security number). Acceptable forms of identification include driver’s license, utility bills, or any document sent by a government agency. For a complete list of acceptable forms of identification, please see this list.  

 

Questions About When an Employee Gets Paid Time Off or Need to Craft a Company Policy on This Topic? 

We’re here to help! Call Sequoia Personnel Services at (707) 445-9641 for all of your HR needs or questions concerning your obligations as an employer.  

Reimbursement of Expenses for Remote Workers

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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. 

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Back to Work – Employee Safety Concerns on Returning to Work 

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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 requirements based on the county level. If you conduct business within California please visit https://covid19.ca.gov/ to review requirements for your business-type, reopening plan if applicable, as well as requirements based at the county level.   

Safety practices are contingent on employer-type. Masks are mandatory if you are open to the public, but in an office, they may only be required if you cannot socially distance yourselves from co-workers. Most businesses will need to customize their safety plan and policies based on their unique work process, contact with the public, workspace, etc.  

 

Step 4: Designate someone who your employees know they can communicate with, regarding any COVID-19 related situation.  Make this person available to all staff while informing them that all communication will be considered private and confidential and is protected by privacy laws.  

 

Step 5:  Communicate your policies in multiple ways to your staff before and after they return to work.  Consider scheduling mandatory [paid] Zoom meetings concerning these updated “Return to Work” policies before employees return to the actual job site. Repeat this information to employees through additional emails, handouts, or letters. Post these special policies on your internal intranet or employee-only website as well.  

Once employees return to work, schedule onsite meetings to discuss implementation of these new policies. To further enforce them, make sure to use a face covering and practice social distancing. Failure to do so has resulted in employees contacting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA has been responding to these concerns aggressively.  

 

Are you ready to answer employee questions or develop new policies—overwhelmed by this looming task? Let Cardinal Services help you! Cardinal has the expertise in place to help you update your policies to address this public health emergency. Our HR Specialists are ready to help you craft new policies and procedures that are compliant with state and federal labor laws—for “normal” times and during these extraordinary challenging times. We have a dedicated webpage of COVID-related information, links and resources for employers. We’re here to help. Call us now!  800.342.4742.