Archive | September, 2020

The City of San Diego Enacts COVID-19 Related Worker Recall and Retention Ordinances

29 Sep

By Kelly D. Gemelli & Arcelia N. Magaña on September 21, 2020, Jackson Lewis

The City of San Diego enacted emergency ordinances requiring fair employment practices in response to job and economic insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home directives.  The City of San Diego COVID-19 Building Service and Hotel Worker Recall Ordinance (“Recall Ordinance”) and the City of San Diego COVID-19 Worker Retention Ordinance (“Retention Ordinance”) went into effect immediately upon their passage on September 8, 2020. The Ordinances apply to three categories of businesses and employers that the City found have been especially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. Commercial Property Employer: defined by ordinance as an owner-operator, manager, or lessee, including contractor, subcontractor, or sublessee, of a non-residential property located within the geographical boundaries of the City of San Diego that employers 25 or more janitorial, maintenance, or security service employees. Only the janitorial, maintenance, and security service employees who perform work for a Commercial Property business or employer are covered by the Ordinance.
  2. Event Center Employer: defined by ordinance as an owner, operator, or manager or a privately-owned structure of more than 50,000 square feet or 5,000 seats that is used for the purpose of public performances, sporting events, business meetings, or similar events, and includes concert halls, stadiums, sports arenas, racetracks, coliseums, and convention centers. The term “event center” also includes any contracted, leased, or sublet premises connected to or operated in conjunction with the “event center’s” purpose, including food preparation facilities, ushering services, ticket taking services, concessions, retail stores, restaurants, bars, and structured parking facilities, but excludes governmental entities.
  3. Hotel Employer: defined by ordinance as an owner, operator, or manager of a residential building located within the geographical boundaries of the City of San Diego with at least 200 guest rooms that provide temporary lodging in the form of overnight accommodations to transient patrons, and may provide additional services, such as conferences and meeting rooms, restaurants, bars, or recreation facilities available to guests or the general public. A “hotel employer” also includes the owner, operator, manager, or lessee of any contracted, leased, or sublet premises connected to or operated in conjunction with the building’s purpose, or providing services to the building.

The Recall Ordinance requires a covered employer to offer positions that become available on or after September 8, 2020, to qualified employees who were laid off on or after March 4, 2020. A laid-off employee is deemed qualified and must be offered a position – in the order of priority below – if the employee:

  1. Held the same or similar position at the same location when the employee was laid off; or
  2. Is or can be qualified for the position with the same training that would be provided to a new worker hired into the position.

If more than one laid-off employee is entitled to preference for a position, the employer must offer the position to the laid-off employee with the greatest length of service in the position and then to the laid-off employee with the greatest length of service with the employer at the employment site.

Under the Retention Ordinance, when a covered business experiences a Change in Control as defined by the Ordinance, covered employees are given preference in hiring by the successor business employer for a period of 6 months and must be retained for no less than 90 days, provided the successor employer continues operating for 90 days unless there is cause for termination (which the Ordinance does not define). Once the 90 days have elapsed, the successor employer must perform a written performance evaluation for each eligible employee retained pursuant to the Retention Ordinance.

The Ordinances will remain in effect for six months. However, they could be repealed by January 1, 2021, depending on whether Gov. Gavin Newsom signs pending Assembly Bill 3216 into law, which would provide similar worker protections statewide.

Top Work Injury Causes & What Companies Must Do

25 Sep

The annual Workplace Safety Index ranks the top 10 causes of disabling work-related injuries and we tell you how you can ensure you aren’t part of these statistics.  Liberty Mutual’s 2020 Workplace Safety Index finds that serious, nonfatal workplace injuries amounted to nearly $60 billion in direct U.S. workers compensation costs. This translates into more than a billion dollars per week spent by businesses on these injuries. In fact, the top 10 causes of workplace injuries account for more than $50 billion or 89% of the total cost.

  • OVEREXERTION INVOLVING OUTSIDE SOURCES Injuries from lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying, or throwing objects accounts for 23% of the national burden when it comes to workplace injuries. TAKE ACTION: Train employees on the proper way to perform the physical tasks required on the job. Utilize equipment, instead of manual labor, when available. Ensure employees are provided breaks and rest when needed to prevent overexertion. 
  • FALLS ON SAME LEVEL Slips, trips and falls are one of the most common causes of workplace injuries indoors and outdoors. Employees are at risk for sprains, strains, lacerations or worse especially if they fall into surrounding debris that could cause further injury. TAKE ACTION: Ensure non-slip mats and rugs are in use, make good housekeeping a priority in the workplace, repair or clearly mark uneven walking surfaces and train employees on proper clean-up requirements.
  • STRUCK BY OBJECT OR EQUIPMENT When work is done at heights, large equipment is in use, or materials are stored vertically there can be a great risk for employees to be struck by falling objects or moving equipment. TAKE ACTION: All overhead materials should be stored in a secure manner. Caution signs should be used and proper PPE, like hard hats, should be in used when needed.
  • FALLS TO LOWER LEVEL Falls from heights can be from ladders, through floor holes or sky lights, from scaffolding, on stairways, from roofs or from large equipment. TAKE ACTION: Ensure all employees that work at heights have proper fall protection provided and they are trained on the use of the fall protection equipment including PFAS, guardrails or other engineered devices.
  • OTHER EXERTIONS OR BODILY REACTIONS These injuries are typically non-impact but occur when a body reacts or responds to something unexpected or has an injury due to a vigorous or strenuous effort. These injuries don’t fit into one of the other common categories. TAKE ACTION: Workplace risk assessments can help evaluate common hazards that employees may be exposed to and assist management with prevention and training opportunities.
  • ROADWAY INCIDENTS INVOLVING MOTOR VEHICLE Employees who drive for business purposes may have more opportunity to be injured in auto crashes and are also susceptible to distracted and drowsy driving. TAKE ACTION: Define safe driving policies with an emphasis on distracted, drowsy, and defensive driving. Provide employees with safe-driver training.
  • SLIP OR TRIP WITHOUT FALL Reaction injuries occur when an employee slips or trips but doesn’t fall down. The stress of the reaction to correct the body to upright can cause muscle strain, twisted ankles, or other trauma. TAKE ACTION: Place no-slip rugs near entrances/exits, make sure any uneven areas are labeled clearly (or repaired), keep all work spaces tidy and potential slippery areas around the building outside should be cleared.
  • REPETITIVE MOTIONS INVOLVING MICRO-TASKS Working on the computer or performing the same task on the assembly line day after day can strain muscles and tendons which may cause back pain, vision problems and carpal tunnel syndrome. TAKE ACTION: Employers should provide, and employees should advocate for proper ergonomic equipment and training. Employees should be encouraged to take breaks and a job rotation schedule along with cross-training could be considered.
  • TRUCK AGAINST OBJECT OR EQUIPMENT When employees unintentionally walk into equipment, walls, debris, or furniture in the workplace it is common to have head, knee, neck and foot bruising, sprains, and injuries. TAKE ACTION: Ensure good housekeeping is a priority in the workplace, walkways are designated, and potential hazards are clearly marked.
  • CAUGHT IN/COMPRESSED BY EQUIPMENT OR OBJECTS Caught-in injuries are one of the top 4 serious incidents that occur in construction and machine entanglement caught-in injuries occur most often in factory settings. TAKE ACTION: Provide protective barriers and train employees on how to recognize caught-in hazards.

CalWorkSafety & HR Is Here To Help:

NEED A FRESH IDEA FOR A SAFETY MEETING TOPIC? This Top 10 List is a great place to start. Review the entire list if you have more time and encourage discussion about the potential hazards found in your own workplace that might fall into each category.

SHORT ON TIME? Pick any one from the top 10 list that applies to your current work environment and focus on ways management and employees can prevent injuries and keep workers safe.

HERE’S THE SOLUTION: CalWorkSafety & HR greatly appreciates that our clients consistently take a “#Safety-First” approach.  

Contact your consultant or email: dondressler@calworksafetyhr.com

Achieve Business Profitability … Reduce Costs … Mitigate Risks Discover the extensive training courses we offer our clients.Contact us today – we are here to help!  

New Study Finds Dining Out Increases Chances of Catching Coronavirus

21 Sep

The report shows adults infected with the virus were more than twice as likely to report dining out in the 14 days before getting sick.

Author: David Gonzalez (KHOU)  Published: September 12, 2020

HOUSTON — Restaurants in Texas are still operating at a limited capacity under Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order.

The restrictions are place to stop the spread of COVID-19.

However, a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows eating at restaurants may increase your risk of catching the virus.

For instance, restaurants have adjusted to being in business during the pandemic as best they can.

Take-out and delivery options have grown very popular but many people still enjoy dining out.

“I think people should be extraordinarily thoughtful in how they decide to go out,” Dr. Paul Biddinger, director of Emergency Preparedness Research, Evaluation and Practice program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health said.

He added, “Of course you have to take off your mask in order to eat and that changes the protection that we’ve been recommending now for so many months. “

The report shows adults infected with the virus were more than twice as likely to report dining out in the 14 days before getting sick.

“And if they are sharing a table with people that are not part of their household, part of their close environment, they should actually be discussing risk factors, recognizing still that we think that 30-60 percent of people can transmit COVID when they have minimal or no symptoms,” Dr. Biddinger said.

He believes there may be different risks between dining indoors versus on a patio.

Most restaurants are doing what they can to protect people by limiting capacity and spacing out tables.

In a statement, the Texas Restaurant Association said the study contained a number of flaws.

Now, more than ever, it is essential that the public is able to make decisions about activities outside of their home based on complete and accurate information about the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

We still do not find evidence of a systemic spread of the coronavirus coming from restaurants who are effectively following our Restaurant Reopening Guidance, encouraging guests to wear masks, social distancing, and practicing good hand hygiene. In effect, the lack of a direct correlation should be evidence that, when restaurants demonstrate effective mitigation efforts, the risk is low when dining outside or inside.

Assembly Bill 685 Changes Employer Notification Requirements on COVID-19 and Enhances Cal OSHA Enforcement Abilities

By Cressinda D. Schlag & Amy P. Frenzen on September 17, 2020 -Jackson Lewis PC

On September 17, 2020, Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill (“AB”) 685, which requires employers to provide written notifications to employees within one business day of receiving notice of potential exposure to coronavirus (“COVID-19”).  AB 685 also authorizes the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (“Cal OSHA”) to prohibit operations, processes, and prevent entry into workplaces that it has determined present a risk of infection to COVID-19 so severe as to constitute an imminent hazard. AB 685 also authorizes Cal OSHA to issue citations for serious violations related to COVID-19 without requiring the agency to comply with precitation requirements.

Notification Requirements

Current California law requires employers to report certain occupational injuries and illnesses to Cal OSHA within a prescribed period. AB 685 confirms employers must report COVID-19 cases to the agency that satisfy Cal OSHA’s definition of a serious injury or illness. To satisfy this requirement, employers must have a process for employees to report potential exposures to COVID-19, having tested positive for COVID-19, or having symptoms of COVID-19. Employers must also assess any employee COVID-19 case to determine whether reporting on the case is required under Cal OSHA regulations.

Along with notifying Cal OSHA of a COVID-19 case that meets the definition of a serious occupational injury or illness, AB 685 requires employers having notice of a potential COVID-19 exposure (e.g., individual testing positive for COVID-19 was in the workplace) provide a written notice to:

  • employees and subcontractor employees who were at the worksite when a potentially infected individual was there and may have been exposed to COVID-19 as a result; and,
  • employees’ exclusive representative, if applicable.

This notice must be provided within one business day of the employer being notified of a potential exposure and may be done in “a manner that the employer normally uses to communicate employment-related information,” such as personal service, mail, or text message. The notice should be drafted to protect employee privacy and without disclosure of personally identifiable information or personal health information. The notice should also include information on COVID-19 benefits the employee may be entitled to and the disinfection and safety plan the employer has implemented or plans to implement in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”).

An employer may also need to notify its local public health department of COVID-19 cases if the number of cases the employer knows about meets the definition of a COVID-19 outbreak as currently defined by the California State Department of Public Health. Upon an outbreak, the employer must notify its local public health department within 48 hours and be prepared to provide information on the number of COVID-19 cases at the worksite, their names, occupation, and other pertinent information. Employers will then need to keep working with the local health department and provide updates on new laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Notifications required under AB 685 do not alter or change the work-relatedness determination for COVID-19 cases under Cal OSHA regulations. AB 685 further requires that employers maintain records of written notifications for at least three years.

Enforcement Procedures

AB 685 authorizes Cal OSHA to act when, “in its opinion,” employees are exposed to COVID-19 in such a manner as to constitute an imminent hazard by:

  • Prohibiting entry or access to a worksite;
  • Prohibiting performance of an operation or process at the worksite; or
  • Requiring posting of an imminent hazard notice at the worksite.

In treating an employer’s worksite as having an imminent hazard to COVID-19, Cal OSHA must limit its restrictions on the employer’s worksite to the immediate area where the hazard was identified. In addition, Cal OSHA’s restrictions must not “materially interrupt the performance of critical governmental functions essential to ensuring public health and safety functions or the delivery of electrical power or water.” These provisions will sunset on January 1, 2023. Cal OSHA regulations require a strict process for “serious violations,” in which Cal OSHA creates a rebuttable presumption of a serious violation following an inspection, which is then shared with the employer and the employer is given a chance to rebut. The employer’s rebuttal may then be used in defense of the violation in an appeal or hearing on the matter. Generally, this procedure is satisfied by Cal OSHA sending a standardized form containing descriptions of the alleged serious violation and soliciting information in rebuttal of the presumption to the employer at least 15 days before issuing the citation. For COVID-19 hazards and violations only, AB 685 streamlines this process by allowing Cal OSHA to issue a citation alleging a serious violation without requiring the agency to solicit information rebutting the presumption of a serious violation.  Accordingly, Cal OSHA would not need to notify an employer 15 days before issuing a serious violation related to COVID-19. This exemption will be repealed on January 1, 2023.

New California Law Significantly Expands Employee Entitlement to Family and Medical Leave

By Susan E. Groff and Jennifer S. Grock

September 17, 2020

California employers with as few as five employees must provide family and medical leave rights to their employees under a new law signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on September 17, 2020. The new law significantly expands the state’s existing family and medical leave entitlements and goes into effect on January 1, 2021.

Senate Bill 1383 (SB 1383) also expands the covered reasons for protected leave and the family members whom employees may take leave to care for under the law.

Expanded Eligibility to Small Employers

Under pre-existing law, employers were not required to provide family care and medical leave under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) (Cal. Gov. Code section 12945.2), if the employee seeking leave worked at a worksite with fewer than 50 employees within a 75-mile radius. Similarly, employers were not required to provide “baby bonding” leave under the New Parent Leave Act (NPLA) (Cal. Gov. Code section 12945.6), if the employee seeking leave worked at a worksite with fewer than 20 employees within a 75-mile radius.

SB 1383 repeals CFRA and NPLA and expands the obligation to provide leave to small employers not covered before. The new law requires employers with at least five employees to provide an otherwise eligible employee with up to 12 workweeks of unpaid job-protected leave during any 12-month period for certain covered reasons. The employer must maintain and pay for the employee’s coverage under a group health plan for the duration of the leave at the level and under the conditions coverage would have been provided if the employee had continued in employment continuously for the duration of the leave.

Additional Covered Family Members and Expanded Reasons for Leave

SB 1383 also expands the covered family members and potential reasons for which an eligible employee may take leave. Under SB 1383, eligible employees may take leave to bond with a new child of the employee or to care for themselves or a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or domestic partner.

Under the prior CFRA statute, leave for purposes of caring for a family member was available only if the family member was the employee’s child, a parent, spouse, or domestic partner.

With the enactment of SB 1383, all eligible employees will be able to care for grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings, unlike under the prior CFRA statute.

SB 1383 contains other significant changes. It requires an employer that employs both parents of a child to grant up to 12 weeks of leave to each employee. Under pre-existing law, the employer only had to grant both employees a combined total of 12 weeks of leave.

The new law also requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave during any 12-month period due to a qualifying exigency related to the covered active duty or call to covered active duty of an employee’s spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent in the Armed Forces of the United States. Lastly, SB 1383 does not permit an employer to refuse reinstatement of “key employees” as was previously allowed by the CFRA under qualifying circumstances. Under SB 1383, employees will still need to meet eligibility requirements, including 12 months of service and 1,250 hours worked for the employer in the previous 12-month period, to qualify for family and medical leave.

Cal/OSHA Drops the Hammer on Employers and Issues COVID-19 Safety Citations

14 Sep

By: Thomas B. Song Carothers DiSante & Freudenberger LLP

Last month we forecasted that Cal/OSHA was primed to issue COVID-19 safety citations in the near future.  Low and behold those predictions have come to fruition, and just in time for the Labor Day holiday.

In a public press release issued last Friday, Cal/OSHA has cited eleven employers for failing to protect workers from COVID-19, because they “did not take steps to update their workplace safety plans to properly address hazards related to the virus.”  Civil penalties assessed ranged from $2,025 to $51,190.  

Noticeably, the investigation that resulted in the highest amount of fines being imposed was “complaint-initiated” – meaning an employee called into OSHA – versus “accident-initiated” or otherwise based on an affirmative COVID-19 illness that occurred in the workplace and was reported to OSHA by the company as a serious illness.  This is significant because it reinforces the fact that just because no actual injury or illness occurred, does not mean that Cal/OSHA will go easy on employers regarding their Injury and Illness Prevention Plan (IIPP) and COVID-19 workplace response plan.

Indeed, the $51,190 in fines most certainly stems from multiple “Serious” citations, highlighting that no actual injury or illness needs to occur in order for a serious citation to issue.  (See CDF’s Law360 article, here, discussing the low burden of proof required to establish a serious violation.)

In its press release, Cal/OSHA also highlighted how a particular employer was cited because they “did not ensure their workers were physically distanced at least six feet apart in the processing area, nor did they install Plexiglas or other barriers between the workers.”  It will be interesting to see what abatement is required by OSHA – whether that be better administrative controls and supervision, or the actual installation of physical barriers – and whether the employer will contest abatement under the “expedited” proceedings at the Cal/OSHA Appeals Board.  Regardless, depending on the extent of the hazard and the reasonableness of less-expensive and equally effective abatement methods, employers may very well have good reason to contest the abatement method prescribed by Cal/OSHA. The above news from Cal/OSHA is unwelcomed, but was also highly expected.  Employers should use this as a wake-up call to take COVID-19 precautions in the workplace seriously, and to review and update their IIPP and COVID-19 response plans as needed.

Governor Newsom Signs Bills to Support Small Businesses Grappling with Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic, Bolster Economic Recovery

Published: Sep 09, 2020- Office of Governor

AB 1577 allows small businesses to exclude PPP loans from gross income for state taxes 

SB 1447 authorizes $100 million Main Street hiring tax credit program for small businesses

SB 115 accelerates $230.5 million in state bond funding to help jumpstart construction projects 

Legislation builds on previous investments and support for California small businesses

SACRAMENTO — Today at Solomon’s Delicatessen, a small business in Sacramento, Governor Gavin Newsom alongside Senator Anna Caballero signed three bills into law to support small businesses grappling with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and another to jumpstart state construction projects.

“Businesses across the state have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and they need support to keep their doors open and their employees on the payroll,” said Governor Newsom. “Today, we are taking action to keep money in the hands of small businesses while expanding job opportunities for those who lost their jobs because of this virus. We have much more work to do together, but I know these bills will make a big difference for small businesses.”

California small businesses are drivers of economic growth – creating two-thirds of new jobs and employing nearly half of all private sector employees. California is home to 4.1 million small businesses, representing 99.8 percent of all businesses in the state and employing 7.2 million workers in California, or 48.5 percent of the state’s total workforce.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented significant challenges to small businesses, employers and employees. Small Business Majority survey data found that up to 44% of businesses are at risk of shutting down. From February to April 2020, there was a 22% drop of active business owners nationwide according to data released through the Census Current Population Survey. Minority-owned businesses are disproportionately impacted: the number of active businesses owned by African-Americans dropped by 41%, Latinx by 32%, Asians by 25%, and immigrants by 36%.

“I’d like to thank Governor Newsom for signing my bill, AB 1577,” said Assemblymember Autumn Burke. “Small businesses need protection – they are taking the brunt of the economic impact created by COVID-19. The federal Paycheck Protection Program was designed to help businesses stay afloat during this crisis and AB 1577 furthers that goal by preventing surprise tax bills and easing administrative burdens for thousands of California’s small businesses.”

“For months, I have been working with my colleagues to champion small business relief and I am very proud SB 1447 has been signed into law,” said Senator Steven Bradford. “This bill will help small businesses that are working hard to persist despite COVID-19 by supporting them as they hire or re-hire employees. Small businesses are critical employers and engines of equitable job growth. This is particularly true for Minority, Women, Disabled Veteran, and LGBT business enterprises. This bill will help bring back jobs that were lost in our communities and support small businesses during this difficult period. I am proud to have worked with my legislative colleagues and the Governor on this effort.”

Governor Newsom signed three bills that will help support small businesses as they recover from the COVID-19 induced recession.

AB 1577 by Assemblymember Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood) conforms state law to federal law by excluding from gross income Paycheck Protection Program loans that were forgiven through the federal CARES Act and subsequent amendments in the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act of 2020.

SB 1447 by Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), Senator Anna M. Caballero (D-Salinas) and Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantez (D-Corona) authorizes a $100 million hiring tax credit program for qualified small businesses. The hiring credit will be equal to $1,000 for each net increase in qualified employees, up to $100,000 for each qualified small business employer.

SB 115, a budget trailer bill, by the Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review appropriates $561 million in fiscal year 2020-21. This includes $411.5 million to advance economic stimulus with $230.5 million to help jumpstart construction projects.

Opened in 2019, Solomon’s Delicatessen is located at the sixth Tower Records location and named after its late founder, Russ Solomon. They closed in March after stay-at-home orders were announced. In April, they reopened for 10 weeks as a community kitchen through a $75,000 grant from Sacramento Covered and healthcare foundations (Kaiser, Dignity, Sutter) to help feed the homeless and medically fragile. They also participated in California’s Great Plates Delivered program. Small businesses support is critical to ensure Californians are connected to the resources they need to pivot and adapt to the COVID-19 marketplace. The state is using every tool at our disposal to support small businesses as they work to safely reopen and recover from this public health crisis. Learn more here.

COVID-19 and the Local Ordinance Landscape: Looking Ahead to 2021

September 10, 2020 | From HRCalifornia Extra

by Bianca N. Saad, J.D.; Employment Law Counsel/Subject Matter Expert, CalChamber

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, we’ve seen numerous changes to all aspects of life — and employment law is no different, with things like federal and state emergency paid sick leave (EPSL), and a patchwork of state guidance around how businesses can safely reopen and maintain a safe and healthy workplace for employees.

As if all that wasn’t enough, several cities and counties throughout California have passed their own laws to address various COVID-19-related circumstances, largely aimed at protecting workers and, in turn, slowing the virus’ spread.

Following is a recap of various COVID-19 ordinances that have passed this year.

FFCRA Recap

The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) took effect on April 1, 2020, and has two separate components:

  • Up to 80 hours EPSL, which is provided to all employees based on five potential qualifying reasons related to COVID-19 and paid out at either 100 percent or two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay, depending on whether the employee is using the leave for themselves or to care for someone else; and
  • Up to 12 weeks of Expanded Family and Medical Leave (E-FMLA) to care for a child whose school or place of care is closed or childcare provider is unavailable due to COVID-19-related reasons, 10 weeks of which are paid at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay.

Because the FFCRA only covers employers with 499 or fewer employees nationally, ultimately excluding larger employers with 500 or more employees nationally, several localities passed their own local emergency paid sick leave ordinances (also referred to as supplemental sick leave ordinances) in an attempt to fill the gap left by the EPSL provisions, and to provide additional sick leave to employees working for larger organizations.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave Ordinances

Currently, all ordinances will remain in effect through December 31, 2020, (the same sunset date as the FFCRA) and some include the option to extend and/or automatically align with any extension made to the FFCRA, though none is foreseen at this time.

The city of Los Angeles started the trend in early April, followed by San Jose, San Francisco and unincorporated Los Angeles County in the same month. In May, we saw similar ordinances take effect in Oakland and Long Beach.

Most recently, Santa Rosa, unincorporated San Mateo County and unincorporated Sonoma County have all joined the list — as did the city of Sacramento, whose ordinance goes a bit further. Not only does it provide supplemental sick leave to employees, but it also requires all Sacramento employers to implement and follow certain physical distancing, mitigation, and cleaning protocols and practices — and employees have the right to refuse to work if employers fail to meet health and safety standards.

The most important thing to keep in mind, especially for employers with employees in any of the 10 aforementioned localities, is that no two ordinances are the same. While it’s true that the ordinances generally align with the FFCRA’s EPSL provisions, many of them also provide greater benefits and protections than what’s provided federally. For example, many ordinances have added on to the list of qualifying reasons for use of the sick leave; and some localities, such as the city of Santa Rosa and unincorporated Sonoma County, have done away with an exemption for employers of health care workers who may otherwise be exempt under federal law (the definition of “health care provider” for FFCRA exemption purposes is currently unclear). Employers subject to any of these EPSL ordinances should review them carefully and work with legal counsel to ensure compliance.

The Road to COVID-19 Recovery

14 Sep

Managing your firm’s recovery from the problems and rules created during the COVID-19 pandemic is the topic of a comprehensive and fast-paced workshop being presented this Thursday, September 17th at 10:00 a.m. PST.  

Tenured presenter and trainer Pat Haley will define steps of dealing with business challenges created by COVID-19, including: ‘keeping up’ with rules; what are your employees thinking about and how you should respond them; HR Policies and Practices that will point your firm to profitability; and lastly, Pat will discuss the importance of your management leadership role. 

COVID-19 Recovery & Your Firm
Date: September 17th
Time: 10:00 a.m. PST
Presenter: Pat Haley
Topic: Managing Your Firm’s COVID-19 Recovery
Q&A to Follow the Discussion

Join ZOOM Meeting Link
Meeting ID: 6313 8260
Passcode: 1234

This is another of our series of monthly courtesy webinars presented by CalWorkSafety & HR, LLC. To Learn More – Call one of our consultants or ask for Don Dressler: 949-533-3742

IRS Issues Guidelines to President’s Payroll Tax Deferral Order

9 Sep

By CalChamber   August 31, 2020

The U.S. Department of Treasury and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued guidelines to President Donald Trump’s payroll tax deferral executive order on Friday night, Aug. 28.

The guidelines are available at: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-20-65.pdf

President Trump signed an executive order on August 8 calling for a deferral of employees’ portion of the Social Security payroll tax from September 1 through December 31, 2020.

The executive order applies to the 6.2% Social Security payroll tax normally deducted from an employee’s pay and would affect workers whose biweekly pay is less than $4,000 on a pretax basis. The determination of whether the deferral applies is to be made on a paycheck to paycheck basis.

Employers are responsible for withholding and paying any deferred taxes. Specifically, employers “must withhold and pay the total Applicable Taxes that the [employer] deferred under this notice ratably from wages and compensation paid between January 1, 2021 and April 30, 2021 or interest, penalties, and additions to tax will begin to accrue on May 1, 2021, with respect to any unpaid Applicable Taxes.”

Unanswered Questions

The guidance leaves a number of questions unanswered, such as:

  • Is the payroll tax deferral voluntary for the employer or employee?
    The notice makes clear that the employer is the affected taxpayer. While the notice does not explicitly say it is voluntary for the employer, it also does not make it mandatory. The notice makes no mention of nor seems to contemplate the employee making the election to defer. Therefore, this would appear to be a decision left to the employer.
    What happens if an employee no longer works for an employer once the deferral is over?
  • Is the employer responsible for the unpaid taxes?
    The notice implies that the employer is responsible for the deferred taxes but provides that the deferred taxes are to be withheld from employees beginning in January. The notice goes on to state, “If necessary, the [employer] may make arrangements to otherwise collect the total Applicable Taxes from the employee.” But the notice provides no further guidance as to what this might mean. It also provides no guidance on what happens if the person is no longer an employee and the employer is unable to collect the unpaid taxes.
  • Must an employer decide by September 1 whether to defer withholding or not?
    The notice is silent on whether an employer must defer the withholding for the entire deferral period (September 1 to December 31) or whether an employer can start deferring at any point during the deferral period.

California Announces New COVID-19 Reopening Plan

Friday, August 28, 2020 | Sacramento, CA  Andrew Nixon /CapRadio

Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a retooled process for loosening and tightening COVID-19 restrictions Friday.

Labeled a “Blueprint for a Safer California,” the system puts California’s 58 counties into four tiers based on the number of new daily cases and the percentage of positive tests.  

“We’ve learned a lot the past few months,” Newsom said. “We’re looking now to a uniform framework.”  

The tiers are color-coded:

California Department of Public Health

  • Purple for Widespread (more than 7 daily new cases  per 100,000;  more than 8% positive tests; most non-essential indoor businesses closed)
  • Red for Substantial (4-7 daily new cases per 100,000; 5-8% positive tests; some non-essential indoor businesses closed
  • Orange for Moderate (1-3.9 daily new cases per 100,000; 2-4.9% positive tests; some business operations open with modifications)
  • Yellow for Minimal (fewer than one daily new case per 100,000; less than 2% positive tests; most business operations open with modifications).  

“We don’t put up green because we don’t believe that there is a green light that says go back to the way things were, or back to a pre-pandemic mindset,” the governor said.

A new state website allows you to look up your county and see what restrictions exist for specific industries and businesses. 

The new system allows some businesses to open statewide regardless of what tier a county is in.

Starting Monday, counties in the widespread tier may open some businesses with modifications, including all retail, shopping centers at a maximum 25% capacity, and hair salons and barbershops indoors. Restaurants can only operate outdoors under the strictest tier, but under the substantial (red) tier, they could open at 25% capacity.

Counties in the widespread tier aren’t permitted to reopen schools for in-person instruction unless they receive a waiver from their local health department for TK-6 grades. Schools can reopen for in-person instruction once their county has been in the substantial tier for at least two weeks.

The tier system replaces the state’s previous COVID-19 watch list.

California Department of Public Health

The new plan requires 21 days before a county can move to a less-restrictive tier in order to know what may be adversely affecting public health. And it features a new process for tightening up if and when conditions worsen.

Counties will also be required to provide rates of positive COVID-9 tests and test positivity data and to show they are targeting resources and making the greatest efforts to prevent and fight COVID. Until now, each of the counties had their own rules and were allowed to simply give their word to the state about critical metrics. 

Newsom said the new guidelines will allow the state to measure progress against COVID-19 in a more meaningful way. 

As of Friday, only three counties — Alpine, Modoc and Tuolumne — are in the yellow or “minimal” category. Sacramento is one of 38 counties in the purple or “widespread” tier. The state has modified the covid19.ca.gov website, allowing you to search for county-specific and business sector-specific information about what services and activities are allowable within that county’s current tier. 

Employment-Related Urgency Bills Await Governor’s Signature

HRWatchdog  September 4, 2020

Last Monday, the California legislature concluded its 2019-2020 legislative session. Several of the bills that were passed will go into effect immediately should the Governor sign them. Governor Newsom has indicated he plans to sign the following urgency measures: 

SB 1159 (Hill) — Workers’ Compensation/COVID-19

This bill establishes presumptions about whether an employee who tests positive for COVID-19 can successfully file for workers’ compensation. The bill has three key components: 

  1. Establishes a disputable presumption that an employee suffered a workplace injury if they are diagnosed with COVID-19 or test positive within 14 days after a day on which the employee worked at their place of employment (other than their own home) and that date was between March 19, 2020, and July 5, 2020. Employers have 30 days to reject the claim. Basically, codifying the Governor’s executive order for worker’s compensation. 
  2. Establishes a disputable presumption that firefighters/rescue services, peace officers, certain medical providers and providers of in-home supportive services have suffered a workplace injury if they test positive for COVID-19 within 14 days after a day on which the employee worked at their place of employment and that date worked was after July 6, 2020. The employer has 30 days to reject the claim. 
  3. Establishes a disputable presumption that an employee suffered a workplace injury if: (1) they are diagnosed with COVID-19 or test positive for COVID-19 within 14 days after a day on which the employee worked at their place of employment (which does not include their residence); (2) the date worked was on or after July 6, 2020, and 3) their employer has five employees or more and the positive test occurred during an “outbreak” at the employee’s specific place of employment. There are additional elements in the bill that define an “outbreak.” Employers have 45 days to reject a claim under this provision.

AB 2257 (Gonzalez) — Exemptions and Clarifications to AB 5

AB 2257 adds additional clarifications and exemptions to AB 5, a bill passed in 2019 that codified the Supreme Court’s decision in Dynamex Operations West Inc. v. Superior Court 4 Cal.5th 903 (2018). Dynamex held that workers should be classified as employees instead of independent contractors unless they pass the “ABC Test”. AB 5 had exempted certain jobs from the rule and many groups worked this year to add clarifications to the law as well as more exemptions. The full list of exemptions can be found here.

AB 1867 (Budget Committee) — Mediation Pilot Program and Supplemental Paid Leave for COVID-19

AB 1867 includes several provisions related to labor and employment and deals primarily with supplemental paid sick leave in relation to COVID-19. 

The bill sets up a mediation pilot program within the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) for small business related to claims about paid family leave. It further sets forth provisions that create new requirements for employees in the food sector. For example, under the new legislation, employees working in any food facility must be permitted to wash their hands every 30 minutes and additionally as needed. The bill further codifies Executive Order N-51-20 by mandating supplemental paid sick leave for food sector workers if they’re unable to work due to any of the specified reasons relating to COVID-19. This provision applies retroactively to April 16, 2020. In addition, the bill establishes COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave for certain employers with 500 or more employees, if the employee works outside the home. The employer must provide 80 hours of supplemental sick leave for COVID-related reasons, unless the employer has a more generous policy than required in the bill (with regard to both length of time and rate of pay) or has already provided COVID sick leave as required by federal, state or local law