Labor & Employment Round-Up
by Melanie Cuevas, VP of Government Relations

Press release

The California Legislature considers new labor and employment laws that will further regulate business operations in the Golden State.

It is said that banks succeed when our communities succeed and likewise suffer when our communities suffer. That sentiment similarly carries over into the realm of policy – labor and employment related legislation proposed by California lawmakers impacting the broader business community not only will force changes upon banks as employers, the changes also impact banks’ customers and the state’s business climate.

California employers, already accustomed to navigating the state’s rigorous employment obligations, must keep track of new changes approved by the California legislature each year. While we have already seen the defeat of several problematic proposals, lawmakers continue to consider several employment-related measures, among them are proposals for a four-day workweek, excusing workplace absenteeism, and a significant expansion of pay equity data reporting.

The legislature must complete their work on August 31, sending measures to the Governor for signature or veto. Most measures, unless otherwise specified, that become law take effect on January 1. Outlined below are the top workplace-related measures that the business community is tracking and that CBA has advocated on alongside our business trade association advocacy colleagues.

Protections for Workplace Absenteeism

 SB 1044 (Durazo) – This measure protects employees who leave or refuse to report to work because the employee feels unsafe, regardless of existing health and safety standards or protections, by prohibiting employers from taking or threatening adverse action against employees in these circumstances. The measure also prohibits employers from limiting employees’ use of mobile phones or other communication devices if the employee wishes to communicate about their safety, seek emergency assistance or assess a state of emergency. Enforced by the Private Attorney Generals Act (PAGA), the measure subject employers to potentially costly lawsuits if they dispute an employee’s decision or have another employee take over job duties. It is worth noting that it is already a crime in California to require an employee to remain at their place of work if there is a notice to evacuate or leave.

Reporting Pay & Gender Data of Employees

SB 1162 (Limon) – This requires private employers with 100 or more employees to submit annual pay data reports to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), which is required to publish the pay data report on a public website. The measure additional requires employers with 15 or more employees to maintain and share pay scale data for any job postings or potentially face civil penalties and requires employers to maintain records of job descriptions and wage rate history for each employee, subject to inspection by the Labor Commissioner. In 2017, similar legislation was vetoed by then Govern Brown, who wrote in his veto letter, “…it is unclear that the bill as written, given its ambiguous wording, will provide data that will meaningfully contribute to efforts to close the gender wage gap. Indeed, I am worried that this ambiguity could be exploited to encourage more litigation than pay equity.”

Will CA Adopt a Four-Day Workweek?

AB 2932 (Low) – This proposal to shorten the regular workweek from 40 to 32 hours for private sector employers of more than 500 employees was ultimately shelved because there was too little time to fully study its implications before taking the legislative step of implementation. The measure proposed to make this change at the same total compensation and required overtime to hourly non-exempt workers for hour in excess of 32 per week; California is one of the few states with the eight-hour daily overtime threshold.  After AB 2932 was held, two nonprofit groups announced a 6-month pilot program of 70 U.K. companies trialing the four-day workweek with no loss of pay, as long as employees maintain the same level of output. Pending results of the trial, which concludes in December 2022, California lawmakers may revisit this idea.

Workplace Technology Accountability Act

AB 1651 (Kalra) – While this specific measure was shelved, we expect conversations on this broader topic to continue. The Workplace Technology Accountability Act was a sweeping proposal to build upon the CCPA and CPRA regarding human resources data, aimed at workplace monitoring, technology, and automated decision-making and artificial intelligence.

Biometric Data Collection

SB 1189 (Wieckowski) – Another measure seeking to build upon the CPRA, SB 1189 proposed to require private entities that collection biometric information to develop and make available to the public a written policy, including a retention schedule and guidelines for destroying biometric information, the definition of which includes “faceprint, fingerprint, voiceprint, retina or iris image, or any other biological characteristic that can be used to authenticate the individual’s identity.” The measure did not provide exemptions for uses related to safety or security. This measure was also shelved for the year.

Accessing Court Records

SB 1262 (Bradford) – While we spend a lot of time playing defense, we also support measures too, and SB 1262 is one of those helpful changes for the business community. If enacted, the measure would restore the long-standing use of driver’s license numbers and dates of birth as search filters in accessing California court indexes. This practice was dismantled last year due to a California Court of Appeals decision, drastically limiting background checks. This measure has received unanimous support through the process thus far.

What’s on the Horizon?

Workplace-related measures like those illustrated above typically impact a broad swath of industries, garner significant attention in the Capitol and in headlines, and require both political acumen and resources to combat or defeat. While employers won’t know the fate of these or other measures in the 2022 legislative session for a few more months, the CBA advocacy team will continue to work on behalf of our members’ best interests and provide updates on poignant legislation to our membership.

California has always kept employers on their toes when it comes to changing employment laws, and this year has proven to be no exception.