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  • The Legislative Office Building in Sacramento

    With a Democratic supermajority in the California legislature and a Democratic governor (who survived a recall election), 2021 brings another slew of employment law bills that expand employee protections.

    DISCRIMINATION AND HARASSMENT

    SB 331 – “Silenced No More” Act – Non-Disclosure Agreements

    The most important bill from this legislative session is SB 331, also known as the Silenced No More Act. SB 331 expands the protections created in 2018 by the Stand Together Against Non-Disclosures (STAND) Act (SB-820) and omnibus sexual harassment bill SB 1300. Those bills targeted attempts by employers to silence employees who have been sexually harassed or subjected to discrimination or retaliation based on sex. SB 331 ensure that these same protections apply to all employees subjected to discrimination, harassment and retaliation. It expands protections to claims based on all protected categories covered by the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), including race, religion, disability, age, veteran status, etc.

    The STAND Act added Code of Civil Procedure Section 1001. Section 1001 prohibits confidentiality provisions in settlement agreements involving civil or administrative actions that state a cause of action for: sexual assault; workplace harassment or discrimination based on sex; failure to prevent workplace harassment or discrimination based on sex; sexual harassment in a business, service, or professional relationship; and sex discrimination, harassment, or retaliation by the owner of a housing accommodation.

    SB 331 amends C.C.P. § 1001 to expand the prohibition on non-disclosure agreements to encompass claims of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation based on any protected category covered by the FEHA (not just those based on sex). This expanded prohibition applies to agreements entered into on or after January 1, 2022. SB 331 clarifies that C.C.P. § 1001 prohibits provisions that prevent or restrict the disclosure of such information.

    SB 1300 had added Government Code § 12964.5, which made it unlawful for an employer, in exchange for a raise or bonus, or as a condition of employment or continuing employment, to: (1) require employees to sign a release of claim or right under the FEHA, or (2) to require employees to sign a nondisparagement agreement that gags employees from disclosing information about sexual harassment and other unlawful acts.

    SB 331 amends Government Code § 12964.5 as follows:

  • After years of advocacy to raise the minimum wage, all California workers can look forward to a $15 an hour minimum wage within the next few years.

    While the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour has not changed in over a decade, states, counties, and cities all have the ability to set a minimum wage. Below, we summarize the minimum wages set by the State of California, Los Angeles City and County, and other cities within Los Angeles County. Employees are entitled to the highest applicable minimum wage.

    State of California

    California State Minimum Wage
    Effective Date Large Employers (26+ Employees) Small Employers (≤25 Employees)
    1/1/2020 $13 per hour $12 per hour
    1/1/2021 $14 per hour $13 per hour
    1/1/2022 $15 per hour $14 per hour
    1/1/2023 $15 per hour $15 per hour

    The State minimum wage will rise $1 per hour on January 1 of each year until it reaches $15 per hour for both small and large employers in 2023. Further details (including regarding the rare exceptions) can be found on the Labor Commissioner’s website.
    nd Employment, 723,000 employed, working-age adults in Los Angeles earn . . .

  • American workers keep falling behind

    The pandemic continues to take its greatest toll on the most vulnerable among us. It has widened existing inequalities, including with respect to wealth, race, and gender. Indeed, while those who lost their jobs are struggling to make ends meet, many others are seeing their bank and investment accounts swell. American household wealth hit a record high at the end of 2020!

    A newly-released report from the California Policy Lab, covered by the New York Times, contains shocking statistics that show just how unequal the pandemic has been in its impact on California workers. The data show that, since the start of the pandemic, about 47% of California workers have applied for unemployment insurance (regular unemployment insurance and pandemic unemployment assistance). However, the most vulnerable workers have borne the brunt of this unemployment.

    As I have written previously, the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on low-wage workers, women, and people of color. The California Policy Lab report explores these inequities in depth, looking at the impact by race/ethnicity, gender, age, educational attainment, and industry. To give some examples:

    • About 90% of Black workers have filed for unemployment insurance benefits, as compared to about 41% of white workers.
    • Women have applied for unemployment insurance at a rate 6% higher than men (51% vs. 45%).
    • Workers with high school educations (or less) were nearly four times more likely to received benefits following the December extensions (55% vs. 14%).
    • Workers between the ages of 16 and 23 were particularly hard hit, with about 69% filing for unemployment insurance benefits, as compared to 40-48% of those in the other age demographics.

    As of February 2021, nearly 20% of California workers are still receiving unemployment benefits, a rate that is 50% higher than the peak during the Great Recession; they are now “long-term unemployed.”

    While we may be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with the pandemic, our economy and unemployment levels have a long way to improve.

  • Ramit Mizrahi with President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.

    On January 20, millions of Americans rejoiced as our new President and Vice President were sworn in. Women and girls wore Chucks and pearls to honor Kamala Harris and to celebrate her many firsts as Vice President—first woman, first Black American, and first of South Asian descent. We shed tears of joy, heaved sighs of relief, and felt hope for a better tomorrow.

    President Biden delivered a powerful message of hope, unity, healing, and rebuilding. He promised an administration that would dedicate itself to fighting the pandemic, delivering jobs, addressing growing inequality, rebuilding the middle class, securing healthcare, seeking racial justice, returning to truth and transparency, and fighting hatred and divisions.

    National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman captured the moment with her breathtaking poem, The Hill We Climb, which ended:

    The new dawn blooms as we free it
    For there is always light,
    if only we’re brave enough to see it
    If only we’re brave enough to be it

    After the inauguration, the President got to work, signing 15 executive orders on his first day in office. More have followed. Already, we see that this new administration, with the backing of the Senate and the House of Representatives, will implement sweeping changes to benefit workers throughout the country.

    Here are some of the changes we can expect:

  • The January 2021 issue of the California Lawyers Association’s Labor & Employment Law Review features an article authored by Ramit Mizrahi, Andrew Friedman, and Tony Oncidi.

    The article—”The Top Employment Cases of 2020″—highlights the most important California state and federal employment cases from last year. Click on the below image to read the article in full.

    Image of Labor and Employment Law Article

    Ramit also spoke on two panels this month:

    Thursday, 1/14/21, 3-5 p.m.
    2020 Is Done: What’s New In 2021?
    Program by: Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles
    Description: Stay up-to-date on the laws that affect your practices. This program covers new housing laws post-COVID, new employment laws, a personal injury perspective on Proposition 22, and anticipated and current legal challenges to the new laws.

    Thursday & Friday, 1/20/21-1/21/21
    2021 New Employment Law Practitioner 2021
    Program by: California Lawyers Association Labor & Employment Law Section
    Description: This is the perfect program for the new lawyers, paralegals, and legal assistants who work with you to learn about the basics of employment law. The program will have six panels: Employment Law 101 (discrimination, harassment, retaliation), Leave of Absence Compliance, Wage and Hour 101, Ethics & Bias During Pandemic Times, California Privacy Rights Act’s Top 10, and Complying with the NLRA.

  • The Legislative Office Building in Sacramento

    2020 has turned out to be another bumper year for employment legislation. The pandemic provided the impetus for the California legislature to expand family and medical leave to employees at smaller companies, fill in gaps with respect to supplemental paid sick leave, and enact a number of measures aimed at keeping employees safer at work. The California legislature also provided greater whistleblower protections, expanded employer reporting obligations, clarified the law with respect to employee misclassification, and expanded the Labor Commissioner’s powers. Below, we cover the top employment laws that were signed into law or vetoed this legislative session.

  • The September 2020 issue of the California Labor & Employment Law Review features Ramit Mizrahi’s article, titled “Same Ocean, Different Boats: The Pandemic’s Disproportionate Impact on Certain Workers, Employment Law’s Protections, and Its Limitations.” The article explores which workers have been most affected by the pandemic, where employment law serves to protect them, and where we must look outside of employment law to support those most in need.

    Click on the below image to read the article in full.

    Cover of September 2020 Labor & Employment Law Review Issue

  • Little girl visits her father in the hospital

    UPDATE: On March 19, 2021, SB 95 was signed into law, which provided COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave (SPSL) for certain covered employees who were unable to work due to COVID-19, including due to quarantine requirements. SB 95 was applied retroactively to January 1, 2021 and was in place until September 30, 2021.

    Last week, on September 9, Governor Newsom signed AB-1867 into law. AB-1867, effective immediately, makes sure that all California employees are eligible for COVID-19-related supplemental paid sick leave (“SPSL”) by filling in the gaps lefts by the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”). The FFCRA provides for 2 weeks of COVID-19-related paid sick leave for eligible employees. However, it only applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees. It further allows employers of certain health care providers or emergency responders to elect to exempt them from FFCRA protections. In fact, it is estimated that the FFCRA leaves out up to 80% of the workforce.

  • podium

    On September 25, 2020, Ramit Mizrahi will be speaking about recent California employment law legislation at the California Lawyers Association’s 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting.

    Here are the details:

    California Employment Law Legislative Update

    Description: From a sea change in the legality of contract labor requirements to special issues around remote working and the need for workplace safety in the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 has shaped up to be an exciting year for employment law. Our panelists will provide employee and management-side perspectives on the newly passed California employment laws and other developments, and the impact they will have on workplaces, including an update on the ever-changing landscape of AB-5 changes to contract labor requirements.

  • son and father enjoying family leave
    Update: Governor Newsom signed SB-1383 into law on September 17, 2020.

    On August 31, 2020, two minutes before the end of the 2019–2020 legislative session, the California Legislature passed Senate Bill 1383. SB 1383, if signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, will be a game-changer for the millions of California workers working for small employers who will become eligible for job-protected family and medical leave under the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”).

    SB 1383 does two main things:

    1. It expands CFRA coverage to all employers with five or more employees, down from 50.
    2. It allows CFRA leave to be used to provide care for grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, domestic partners, adult children, and children of domestic partners.

    We expect that Governor Gavin Newsom will sign the bill into law given his commitment to expanding paid family leave.

    This blog post discusses the changes to the CFRA created by SB 1383.

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