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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:   INVOLUNTARY TERMINATIONS AND LAYOFFS  Paycheck is due immediately: Terminated or laid off employees must be paid all of their earned, unpaid wages, including accrued vacation, immediately at the time of their termination.   Paycheck pickup location: The place of the final wage payment for employees who are terminated or laid off is designated as the site of termination.     VOLUNTARY SEPARATION OR EMPLOYEE RESIGNATIONS   Paycheck is due immediately:   Employee does NOT have a written employment contract for a specified time period.  If the employee gives a 72-hour notice of their intended last day and quits on day specified.   Employee must be paid all of their earned wages and unpaid wages, including accrued vacation, at the time of quitting.    Paycheck is due within 72 hours of quitting:  If employee quits without giving a notice of at least 72 hours.  Employee must be paid all of their earned wages, including accrued vacation.   Employee does NOT have a written employment contract for a specified time period.  The employee may request that their final payment be mailed to a designated address.   The date of mailing is considered the date of payment.     Paycheck pickup location:   Employees who quit without giving a 72-hour notice, and who do not request that their final wages be mailed to them at a designated address can pick up their final paycheck at the office of the employer within the county in which the work was performed.     DIRECT DEPOSITS  Direct deposits that were previously authorized by the employee are immediately terminated when an employee quits or is discharged.  Payment of wages upon termination of employment as described above applies unless the employee has voluntarily authorized the direct deposit and provided that the employer complies with the provisions of Labor Code Section 213(d) relating to the payment of wages upon termination...

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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 COVID–19 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?    Can A Refusal to Return to Work Be Grounds for Termination?  Determining a legally defensible excuse for refusing to work can be complicated. Employers need to review all reasons the employee might refuse to return to work before considering termination of employment:  Does the employee have valid concerns that your company is not taking necessary safety precautions to prevent the virus’s spread in the workplace?  Does the employee have an underlying medical condition that would prevent them from returning to the workplace?  Does the employee live with someone who is at high risk for contracting COVID-19?   In any of the circumstances above, employers must be cautioned against terminating an employee, as it could give rise to discrimination or retaliation claims under the accommodation obligations as stipulated in the Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA] and similar state labor laws. While the ADA rule does not require reasonable accommodations for employees who refuse to return to work because they live with someone who is at high-risk for COVID-19—in many of these cases, employers have been accommodating their staff when dealing with this situation.    CDC Guidelines for COVID-19 Underlying Health Condition Threats  Employees who have health conditions that put them at high-risk for contracting COVID-19 are considered to have a legitimate disability and must be granted a leave of absence or offered the option of telecommuting. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], the following health conditions have been documented to increase the mortality rate of those who contract COVID-19:    Any disease or condition that causes an immunocompromised state (weakened immune system)   Cancer  Chronic kidney disease COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)   Down Syndrome  Heart conditions, such as heart failure, Coronary Artery disease or Cardiomyopathies Obesity   Pregnancy   Sickle Cell Disease  Smoking  Type-2 diabetes mellitus    Utilizing a “Leave of Absence“ Strategy vs. Working Remotely ...

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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) 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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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.    Declare your worksite as a Safe Zone  As workplaces reopen, expect some divergent views from employees about whether they feel safe and comfortable returning to work. Remind staff that co-workers may be health-compromised, or may have a family member who is of high-risk, so they will have legitimate concerns about co-workers’ social distancing and mask-wearing practices. “Virus shaming” will not be tolerated. Due to health confidentiality laws, management and employees themselves are NOT required to share their personal health information.    Set a policy for which employees can Agree to Disagree  Remind staff of company policies, including local, state, and federal laws regarding employees’ rights to disagree and have differing opinions, but specify that the company will not tolerate arguing, intimidation, bullying, or other tactics that would be considered harassment.  If employees insist on discussing politics, set ground rules such as no name-calling and mention that discussions should occur during break time and not during a staff meeting.  Also, remind employees that if they become agitated it is best to end the conversation.     Communicate to your staff that you recognize and respect the diversity of opinions and beliefs  Political discussions may be difficult to avoid in a semi-social work setting, such as a team lunch or after-hours socializing...

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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...

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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.  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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