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  • Weekly Quiz and Update on CA Legislation Sent to Governor of August 31st

    Keeping with the established “norms” of 2020, the CA legislature fell into an exceptional state of chaos and disarray in the final hours of the closing legislative session this week.  In spite of the infighting, technology “glitches,” accusations of intentional stall tactics, expletive-laden Tweets and the participation of a newborn baby in the debates, the legislature did manage to pass and send to the governor for signature, several critical employment related bills.

    In keeping with our tradition of offering a weekly quiz, here is our question for the week:

    Which of the following pieces of legislation did the CA state legislature pass and send to the governor for signature in August 2020 (Select all that apply):

    1. SB 855 – Expanding the list of mental health conditions considered “medically necessary” from the current list of nine.
    2. AB 685 – Requiring (among others) that employers notify their employees of potential COVID-19 exposures in the workplace.
    3. AB 979 – Requiring that individuals from “underrepresented communities” have at least one seat on corporate boards by the end of 2021.
    4. AB 2257 – Amending 2019’s AB 5 restrictions on independent contractors to exempt dozens of professional services fields from the ABC test.
    5. SB 1159 – Establishing the presumption that essential workers were infected with COVID-19 on the job and therefore be qualified for workers’ compensation if they meet certain conditions.
    6. SB 1083 – Expanding Paid Family Leave to require companies with at least five employees to guarantee workers their jobs back after they take leave to care for a new baby or sick loved one.
    7. SB 123 – Making Swedish the official language of the workplace in CA

    Answer:  A, B, C, D, E, F

    Of particular interest to many workers and employers in CA, AB 2257 is expected to be signed into law soon and be effective immediately, as it was passed as emergency legislation.

    Additionally, SB 1083 is based on an agreement Governor Newsom made with legislative leaders earlier this year, so every indication is that he will sign it as well.

    Although similar efforts have failed in the past and the current legislation is opposed by the health insurance industry, SB 855 would make substantive and timely changes to the current law which covers only nine mental health conditions and does not include substance use disorder. Further, the pandemic has resulted in a significant increase in the number of 18- to 24-year-olds reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression, making this a little more likely to get signed into law.

    If AB 685 is signed into law, it would create, effective January 1, 2021, an enforceable statewide standard for how employers must handle COVID outbreaks.  The bill was watered down at the last minute to get the needed votes and no longer would require the state to publicize all ongoing workplace outbreaks, and no longer includes a $10,000 penalty or the presumption that employers were retaliating if they fired an ill employee or asked for a COVID test.

    If signed into law, AB 979 would build on the 2018 law requiring women on corporate boards to include individuals who self-identify as Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian, Alaska Native or gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender qualify as someone from an underrepresented community.  The law requiring women on boards continues to face legal challenges and it is hard to tell if that might influence the governor’s willingness to sign off on this at least at the current time.

    Ensuring workers’ compensation access for essential workers was a hot topic throughout the legislative session and, in the end, was synthesized into SB 1159, which presumes that essential workers (specifically public safety and health care workers and others during specified workplace outbreaks),  were infected with COVID on the job and therefore qualify for workers’ compensation if they meet certain conditions.  Employers would be allowed to contest the claims.

    Given the chaotic nature of the closing session and the anomalies of 2020, it is only slightly surprising that legislation along the lines of “SB 123” was not brought up at some point.  But, who knows what 2021 may have in store, and Swedish is a beautiful language!

    Learn more about these new laws and much more at our Workplace & Employment Law Update