2022 Employment Update

California lawmakers continue to remake the employment landscape, enacting several new laws for 2022, including ones that change how employers handle separation agreements, workplace investigations, and workplace safety. Here are the significant new laws that human resource professionals should prepare to implement come January 1, 2022.

California AB 1033 and 1578 have added protective leave for the care of parents-in-law for both private and public sector employees. It also allows a respondent employer with between 5 and 19 employees in CFRA civil action or arbitration if the employee failed to initiate the alternative dispute resolution process prior to filing a civil action until the mediation is complete or impasse is reached.

Federal OSHA issued an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) that will require employers with 100 employees or more to ensure that all employees are vaccinated against COVID-19 or in the alternative, submit to weekly COVID-19 testing.

California AB 1003 adds Section 487m to the California Penal Code. It makes the intestinal theft of wages, including gratuities, by an employer in an amount greater than $950 from one employee or $2350 from two or more employees in a 12-month period punishable as grand theft. Independent contractors are also covered for purposes of this new criminal offense.

California SB 572 allows the Labor Commissioner to place a lien on real property to recover penalties owed for violations of the labor code.

California AB 1171 requires the reporting of any felony convictions and exempts only misdemeanor convictions from the requirement that certain employers notify parents or guardians that an employee with specified convictions will have supervision over a child.

California AB 701 requires warehouse distribution center employers to provide written descriptions of quotas for employees upon hire. It also prohibits quotas that would prevent employees from complying with meal or rest periods or health and safety laws. Additionally, it requires that employee time spent on compliance with safety laws be considered productive time. It allows current and former employees to request a written description of quotas that applied or apply to that employee and a copy of the most recent 90 days of the employee’s own personal work speed data.

California SB 331, known as the “Silence No More Act,” prohibits an employer from requiring an individual to sign settlement or non-disparagement agreements relating to unlawful acts in the workplace, including discrimination and harassment.

SB 62 prohibits employers from paying employees engaged in garment manufacturing by the piece rate method. Instead, the law requires that these workers be paid at least the minimum wage for all hours worked.

SB 657 is a straightforward and logical addition to the workplace notice-posting obligation: Any notice that must be posted in the California workplace may also be sent to employees as an attachment to an email. The obligation to physically post notices in the workplace remains, but emailing the notice to employees—especially those who work remotely—is now explicitly allowed, and is a best practice.

AB 654 requires employers to notify local public health agencies of a COVID-19 outbreak, defined in a non-healthcare workplace as three or more COVID-19 cases among workers at the same worksite within a 14-day period, within 48 hours or one business day, whichever is later.

Although not a new law, employers are reminded that on January 1, 2022, California’s minimum wage will increase to $14.00 per hour for employers having 25 or fewer employees and $15.00 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees. Because the minimum salary threshold for exempt employees is defined as a multiple of the state minimum wage, this minimum wage increase means that the 2022 minimum salary threshold that must be paid to an exempt employee will be $1,120 per week ($58,240 per year) for smaller employers, and $1,200 per week ($62,400 per year) for larger employers. Many cities and counties have higher minimum wage rates, but the minimum salary threshold is based exclusively on state law.

The above is not an exhaustive list of updates to California labor law.

As always, I recommend employers of all sizes to review and update their employee handbooks at least once a year to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations.

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