On January 1, 2020, several new laws took effect protecting millions of California employees.  These vigorous laws include new penalties for unpaid wages, statewide lactation accommodations, and sweeping changes for gig economy workers. For an in-depth analysis as to how each law might affect your employment, contact Astanehe Law for your free consultation.  Otherwise, continue reading this article for a summary of new laws protecting California employees in 2020.

AB 5: California Gig Economy Worker Protections

The ubiquity of the smartphone has created millions of new jobs, commonly referred to as the gig economy. Despite allowing employers to skirt critical employment laws for years, the California Legislature, following the lead of the California Supreme Court, has finally moved to curtail these employers’ blatant worker misclassification. On January 1, 2020, AB 5 took effect, which codified a new three-factor test previously introduced in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, 4 Cal. 5th 903 (2018) as law.  Under the DynamexABC-Test, a California worker is presumed to be an employee, unless the hiring entity can demonstrate that the worker:

  1. Is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity when performing the work;
  2. Performs work that is outside the hiring entity’s usual course of business; and,
  3. Is customarily engaged in an independently established trade or business involving the work they are performing.

Several gig economy employers have already mounted challenges to the law, and more refuse to comply.  Thus, the practical effect of this law remains uncertain.  If the auspices of the state are harnessed on behalf of workers ahead of venture capitalists, millions of California’s hardworking couriers, livery drivers, and other misclassified employees will enjoy vital economic and social betterment.

California Employees Covered New Protection Effective Date Affected Authority
All California gig economy workers currently misclassified as independent contractors Hiring entities must properly classify their employees bestowing numerous employee protections, including but not limited to, overtime, and unemployment insurance. January 1, 2020 Labor Code § 2750.3; Labor Code § 3351; Unemp. Ins. Code § 606.5; Unemp. Ins. Code § 621.

AB 673: Penalties for Employer’s Failure to Pay Wages

AB 673 amends Labor Code section 210 to set penalties for an employer’s failure to pay wages at $100 for each initial failure to pay each employee and $200 plus 25% of the amount unlawfully withheld to each employee for each subsequent violation.  The employee can recover the damages as a statutory penalty pursuant to Labor Code section 98 or as a civil penalty through the issuance of a citation. These options are not cumulative.

California Employees Covered New Protection Effective Date Affected Authority
All California Employees Employees who do not receive their lawful wages are entitled to recover $100 for each initial failure to pay and $200 plus 25% of the amount unlawfully withheld for each subsequent violation. January 1, 2020 Labor Code § 210.  

AB 1066: Robust Overtime Pay Awards for California Agricultural Workers

Initially passed in 2016, the Phase-In Overtime for Agricultural Workers Act of 2016 gradually phased in several new protections and changes affecting California’s vulnerable agricultural workers.  As of January 1, 2020, California agricultural workers are entitled to overtime pay, at time and a half, for any hours worked over nine hours in a single workday or fifty hours in a single workweek.  Notably, the law will increase protections so that by 2022, California agricultural workers will earn overtime pay for any hours worked over eight hours in a single workday or forty hours in a single workweek.

California Employees Covered New Protection Effective Date Affected Authority
California Agricultural Workers Overtime pay for any hours worked over 9 hours in a single workday or 50 hours in a single workweek. January 1, 2020 Labor Code § 554; Labor Code § 857; Labor code § 858; Labor Code § 859; Labor Code § 860; Labor Code § 861; Labor Code § 862; Labor Code § 863; Labor Code § 864.

SB 142: Lactation Accommodations in Workplace

SB 142 amends and adds several Labor Code provisions to ensure California employees are accommodated at the workplace while expressing milk.  Principally, all California employers must provide their employees with reasonable break time for expressing breast milk.  These new protections include, but are not limited to, requiring a close and safe lactation room with features including a place for a breast pump and personal items, space to sit, electricity, and a refrigerator or other cooling device for milk storage. Additionally, California employers now must develop and implement workplace lactation policies.  Further, Employers may not retaliate against employees who exercise their right to lactation accommodations.  Employees denied their right to express milk are entitled to recover a fine of $100 for each day the employer’s denial continues.

California Employees Covered New Protection Effective Date Affected Authority
All California Employees Expressing Breast Milk Reasonable break time to express breast milk with adequate accommodations, including a safe and close lactation room. January 1, 2020 Labor Code § 1030; Labor Code § 1031; Labor Code § 1033; Labor Code § 1034.

AB 9: California Extends Limitations Period for Employment Discrimination Claims

Before January 1, 2020, employment discrimination claims had a one-year statute of limitations period. This meant that an employee only had one year to file their work discrimination complaint with the Department of Fair Employment & Housing or lose the right to file forever.  This short limitation could be unforgiving and vexing for employees who otherwise had legitimate claims.  As of January 1, 2020, the statute of limitations period for workplace discrimination claims is now three years.  Now, employees have three years from the last date of employment discrimination to file a complaint at the Department.  Further, this law makes the operative date for statute of limitation purposes the date the employee filed the complaint with the Department.  Unfortunately, this law does not revive lapsed claims.

California Employees Covered New Protection Effective Date Affected Authority
All California Employees with Workplace Discrimination Claims Employees now have three years to file an employment discrimination complaint at the Department of Fair Housing & Employment. January 1, 2020 Gov’t Code § 12960; Gov’t Code § 12965.  

AB 51: Employment Arbitration Agreement Ban for Workplace Sexual Harassment

Arbitration agreements hurt workers.  Regrettably, the United States Supreme Court is amid of a multi-decade crusade erasing any and all protections against arbitration clauses in employment agreements. To that end, the California Legislature passed AB 51, which prohibits an employer from forcing applicants or employees to waive their Fair Employment & Housing Act or other California laws governing employment via arbitration agreement.  This means that the employer cannot make signing arbitration agreements waiving the right to pursue a FEHA or other state law claim in court a condition of employment.  This law seeks to complicate employers’ ability to quietly resolve allegations of sexual harassment through mandatory confidential arbitration, which allowed alleged sexual harassers like Harvey Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly to covertly carry out their sexual perversions for years with no initial negative impact on their employers. Additionally, AB 51 prohibits employers from threatening, retaliating, firing, or discriminating against employees because of their refusal to consent to the arbitration agreement.  Unfortunately, the law does not apply to arbitration agreements entered into before January 1, 2020. Please note that a U.S. District Judge granted a California Chamber of Commerce request for a temporary restraining order enjoining the enforcement of the law.  On January 10, 2020, the court is set to consider a preliminary injunction, which, if granted, could indefinitely delay AB 51’s implementation.

California Employees Covered New Protection Effective Date Affected Authority
All California Employees Bans mandatory arbitration as a condition of employment for applicants & employees for FEHA and other employment statutory claims. January 1, 2020 – CURRENTLY NOT IN FORCE DUE TO TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER Gov’t Code § 12953; Labor Code § 432.6  

SB 707: Arbitration Opt-Outs Permissible  Where Employer Does Not Pay Arbitration Fees

Effective as of January 1, 2020, this law sets a penalty where an employer fails to pay for arbitration costs within thirty days after becoming due.  The penalties include that the employer is in material breach and default of the arbitration agreement.  Further, the employer waives its right to compel arbitration.  This frees the employee to proceed in court, where the playing field is not biased in favor of employers.

California Employees Covered New Protection Effective Date Affected Authority
All California Employees Frees California employees to proceed in court after employers waive their right to compel arbitration by failing to pay arbitration fees within 30 days of becoming due. January 1, 2020 Code of Civil Procedure § 1280; Code of Civil Procedure § 1281.96; Code of Civil Procedure § 1281.97; Code of Civil Procedure § 1281.98; Code of Civil Procedure § 12981.99.  

AB 749: No-Hire Clause Ban

This new law prohibits employment dispute or litigation settlement agreements from containing provisions that prohibit, prevent, or otherwise restrict a settling party from working for the employer against which the aggrieved person has filed a claim or any parent company, subsidiary, affiliate, or contractor.  An exception exists for certain sexual harassment and sexual assault disputes and matters.

California Employees Covered New Protection Effective Date Affected Authority
All California Employees No-Hire clauses in employment dispute settlement agreements are unlawful. January 1, 2020 Code of Civil Procedure § 1002.5.  

Astanehe Law Knows Employee Rights

Your employer must comply with these laws.  If you have any questions about these laws, or any other employment laws, contact Astanehe Law for your free consultation. Michael Astanehe has recovered millions on behalf of Californians and may be able to assist you with your claim.  Contact Astanehe Law at (415) 226-7170 or contact@astanehelaw.com.  Astanehe Law knows employee rights!