The changing economy, climate and demands on California’s workforce have led to demands for more worker rights. New laws will take effect in 2022 that will add to the rights of workers.
Worker classification and conditions
The growing demand for just-in-time logistics and next-day delivery led to one of the most important new laws for 2022. AB 701 is intended to protect employee rights by regulating production quotas which were blamed for workplace safety rules and meal and rest break violations, and for invalidating minimum wage increases.
Now, employees are not required to meet quotas that prevent them from having legally required meal and rest periods, travelling to and from and using bathrooms and having protections under the state’s occupational health and safety laws. Employers may not impose adverse action upon workers who do not meet quotas for these reasons or where the quota was not disclosed.
Discrimination lawsuit time extended
The time for filing discrimination lawsuits has been extended by the time that the Department of Fair Employment and Housing conducts its investigation. The DFEH deadline for completing its investigation and issue a right-to-sue notice for employment discrimination complaints treated as class or representative complaints is lengthened to two years.
Employers are now required to preserve personnel records for applicants and employees for four years from the date the record were created, the employee was terminated, or the applicant was hired. After receiving notice that a verified complaint was filed, the employer must keep all relevant record until the complaint is resolved or the end of the statute of limitations, whichever is later.
Silenced No More Act
The Stand Together Against Non-Disclosures Act took effect in 2019 and prohibits employers from settling lawsuits and legal claims with agreements that prevent disclosure of factual information on sexual assault, sexual harassment, workplace harassment, sex discrimination, prevent workplace harassment or sex discrimination. Employers cannot retaliate against worker who report sexual harassment or discrimination.
The Silenced No More Act expands that law to prevent terms in certain agreements that prevent or restrict disclosure of factual information on claims involving all types of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.
Employers may not require employees sign a non-disparagement agreement or other documents that interfere with their rights to disclose information about unlawful workplace acts. Separation agreements may not contain these restrictions.
These terms may not be contained in agreements made in exchange for a raise or bonus, separation, or termination. The law, however, excludes negotiated settlement agreements for an underlying claim filed in court, before an administrative agency or an alternative dispute resolution process in an employer’s internal complaint process.
The intentional theft of wages by employers is now punishable as grand theft when the wages are over $950 for one employee or $2,350 for at least two employees in a consecutive 12-month period.
The temporary exemption for newspaper publishers and distributors from the ABC test is extended until Jan. 1, 2025. The ABC test was established by the state Supreme Court and by law in 2019 to determine if workers are employees or independent contractors. Exemption from the ABC test will still require satisfying control and other factors.
This exemption was also extended until Jan. 1, 2025, for manicurists and construction subcontractors.
Family Medical Rights Act
Employees have up to 12 weeks of absence for their own medical condition or to care for an immediate family member.
Based on a law approved in 2015, the minimum wage for workers increased to $15 per hour in 2022. This applies to employers with at least 26 employees. Employers with fewer employees must pay the hourly minimum wage is $14.
For the administrative, executive, or professional exemption from the minimum wage, a worker must meet a duties test and receive a salary that is twice the minimum wage. The annualized salary rate for employers with at least 26 employees is $62,000 and $58,240 for employers with fewer workers.
Employees may possess numerous workplace rights. Attorneys can assist them in investigations and lawsuits and assure that their rights are protected.