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California Compliance Update: New Laws that Impact Hourly Workers

October 16, 2019 - minute read

California—the so-called land of milk and honey—holds a powerful allure for American businesses. After all, our 31st state boasts the fifth largest economy in the world, and business is booming. On the other hand, the Golden State is notorious for its pro-employee legislative practices and rigorous enforcement policies. It’s no secret that companies operating in the Golden State face acute, unrelenting labor compliance challenges.

From its unique minimum wage and overtime laws to meal and rest break legislation and paid sick leave laws, California keeps employers on their toes. Furthermore, its employment law is evolving so rapidly, it’s hard to stay on top of them all. Many of these new and pending laws impact employers managing an hourly and often distributed workforce. If you fall in that category, these three laws should be on your radar.

Expanded Sexual Harassment Prevention Training for Janitorial Workers

California already can claim some of the most vigorous workplace sexual harassment laws in the nation. For example, under SB 778, California employers with five or more employees must to provide one hour of sexual harassment prevention training to non-supervisory employees by January 1, 2021. Supervisors must receive two hours of training, with follow up every two years thereafter.

However, newly-proposed regulations will require even more extensive training for workers in the field of janitorial services. Building services employers with at least one janitorial worker will be required to provide two hours of sexual violence and harassment prevention training to janitorial employees and their supervisors every two years.

The law specifies that training must be interactive, must be conducted in person, and must identify specific resources for victims. Training must be provided in the worker’s primary language and at his/her literacy level, and written records must be kept for at least three years.

Originally, such training was to be completed by January 1, 2020. However, because California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) extended the comment period, exact regulations have yet to be finalized. For the time being, employers have been directed to provide workers with copies of the Department of Fair Employment and Housing pamphlet DFEH-185—and be ready to implement the new regs as soon as they’re finalized.

Worker Protections against Wildfire Smoke

As you know, California continues to endure increasingly deadly, destructive wildfire seasons. This summer, the state issued an emergency regulation protecting outdoor workers—i.e., agricultural workers, landscapers, construction workers, sanitation workers, and day laborers—from the harmful effects of wildfire smoke.

Under the emergency legislation, employers are required to check air quality and follow certain procedures when the Air Quality Index (AQI) for airborne particulate matter (PM 2.5) reaches 151 or higher in any given location. 

In that event, employers are required to relocate workers to safer buildings or worksites or—if that isn’t feasible—to provide workers with respirators such as N95 masks and provide specific training on how to use them.

The emergency regulation is in effective through January 28, 2020 and may be extended thereafter—until California lawmakers establish a permanent law via their standard legislative process.

New Regs for Reporting Occupational Injuries

Until recently, California employers were required to report serious work-related injuries, illnesses and fatalities to the state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health by telephone or email within eight hours of learning about it.

Now, under AB 1804, employers are required to report such events immediately by telephone or via an online platform that is to be developed by the division. The revision was spurred by the finding that reports submitted by email were often judged to be incomplete.

The law becomes effective January 1, 2020; the penalty for noncompliance is $5,000. Until the online platform is available, employers are permitted to make these reports by telephone or email.

Maintaining Labor Compliance in California

California legislators have recently passed a number of additional labor-related laws that will undoubtedly (but not exclusively) impact employers managing an hourly workforce. These include AB 5, which cracks down on the misclassification of employees as independent contractors, and SB 188, the first state hairstyle discrimination ban.

Without question, state and local labor laws continue to challenge employers—especially those that operate in states like California and in multiple jurisdictions. One of the most powerful compliance tools at your disposal should be your HR and payroll software.

EPAY’s HCM system offers a number of compliance safeguards designed specifically for employers managing an hourly and/or distributed workforce. See how we can help you achieve labor compliance on the federal, state and local levels, and check out our latest compliance webinar, Key Legislative Updates for the Hourly Workforce.

Filed Under: Compliance HR News Employee Benefits California OSHA