CALIFORNIA, USA — It's almost a new year! On Jan. 1, expect things to be just a little different in the California workplace. Find out which bills were signed into law and what's changing in 2020.
Summary: Defining employees versus independent contractors
Current law: Based on the decision in the Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles case, a worker who performs services for hire is an employee, unless that worker passes a 3-part test, called the ABC test, that establishes that worker as an independent contractor.
What’s new: This bill sets this new three-factor test as law. The test automatically considers a person an employee unless they demonstrate that the following conditions are satisfied:
- a) The person is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact.
- b) The person performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.
- c) The person is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.
Why it’s needed: Workers who are classified as employees have access to minimum wage, unemployment insurance benefits, workers' compensation, and a job site free from discrimination. However, workers (especially construction workers) have been hurt in the past by being misclassified as independent contractors rather than employees. AB 5 opens up the definition of an "employee" to people who might otherwise be considered independent contractors, allowing them to receive benefits and protections under California's labor code.
The California Labor Federation is sponsor of this bill. The Southwest California Legislative Council is opposed and states that "many of our members are local entrepreneurs who contract their services out to a variety of businesses, enabling them to benefit from multiple income streams."
Summary: Wages, hours, and working conditions for agricultural workers.
Current law: AB 1066 passed back in 2016, but it effects were spread out over a few years. In 2019, the law started to phase in overtime requirements for agricultural workers over four years.
It started with agricultural workers getting paid overtime (one and one-half times pay) for working more than nine and one-half hours in a workday or more than 55 hours in a workweek.
What’s new: Agricultural workers will now receive a time and a half pay rate for any hours worked over 9 hours in a single workday or over 50 hours in a single workweek. By 2022, time and a half will be awarded for any time worked over 8 hours in a single day or 40 hours in a week.
Why it’s needed: Sacramento is America's Farm-to-Fork Capital, but the workers who pick and process those fruits, vegetables, etc. do not have proper workers' rights. This bill affords agricultural workers the rights of all paid employees in California, allowing them to seek a living wage through overtime pay.
This bill was sponsored by the United Farm Workers (UFW), who argued that farm workers engage in back-breaking work every day. A coalition of agricultural employers and others oppose this bill, arguing that, agricultural workers need greater flexibility in scheduling.
Summary: Expanding worker protections for lactation accommodation requests
Current law: In 2018, AB 1976 was passed requiring employers to accommodate workers who wanted to express milk. It also allowed use of temporary lactation spaces.
What’s New: A lot of the new elements of SB 142 expands on worker protections and conditions, specifically in regard to lactation accommodation.
Some of those include:
- A safe lactation room with features including: a place for a breast pump and personal items, place to sit, and access to electricity. The space should be nearby the employees work area.
- A workplace policy about lactation accommodation
- Protections for workers from discharge, discrimination, and retaliation for exercising the right to lactation accommodation
- A $100 fine for each day an employee is denied a reasonable break or space to express milk
- Employers with less than 50 employees can apply for an undue hardship exemption, but they would still need to make a reasonable effort to provide a space.
Why it’s needed: State Senator Scott Wiener, the bill's author, has argued that no parent should have to choose between returning to work and breastfeeding their babies.
The United States Breast Feeding Committee says more than half of new mothers enter the workforce before their child is a year old and that many have to stop breastfeeding before the recommended age of six months.
According to an Assembly analysis, there is a public health interest in increasing the amount of mother who can breast feed their children and can potentially confer savings in health care costs for employers and the state.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to remove laws that went into effect Jan. 1, 2019, and clarified previously enacted laws with updates that took effect in 2020.