In 2020, California employers dealt with unprecedented shifting sands in an already tough legal climate. The government responded to business and societal shutdowns forced by the pandemic with employee wage and job protections. Whether employers are dealing with unexpected circumstances or normal compliance issues and employee claims, they face ongoing challenges dealing with “regular” wage and hour issues in Southern California. Following are highlights of some wage and hour issues that employers could be overlooking.
Re-Examining Wage and Hour Issues in Southern California
Los Angeles is the nation’s second-most populous urban region, making Southern California ripe for employment issues like wage and hour matters. Keeping fully abreast of changes in wage and hour legislation, Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders, and how they impact a particular type of business would be an all-consuming task, and understanding how legislation and agency decisions apply to your business is challenging in the normal course, let alone when circumstances create upheaval and sudden legislative changes.
Wage and hour issues in Southern California are not uncommon, but they can be incredibly costly. Knowledge is power, and employers who remain up-to-date and strive for legislative and administrative compliance can minimize employee claims and are better prepared to deal with them when they arise.
Rethinking Wage and Hour Violations Post-Pandemic
Before many had even heard of COVID-19, California employers regularly traversed a minefield of wage and hour laws on issues like minimum wage, exemption status, worker classification, overtime, and break time. The shutdowns ordered in 2020 only complicated matters. Suffering decreased earnings as a result, employers attempted to remain in business by implementing reduced work hour schedules, offering telework, or furloughing employees. These actions, in turn, created a new variety of wage and hour claims.
To ride out the pandemic, employers reconfigured working conditions, sometimes for both on-site and remote employees. Unless employers fully explored the legal ramifications of their responses and the changes they implemented, they could open themselves to a new flurry of wage and hour complaints in certain areas:
- Mealtime and rest breaks offered, including differences between those afforded on-site versus telecommuting employees.
- Overtime pay.
- Reimbursement for costs associated with telework, such as costs for cell phones, high-speed internet connections, and other necessary equipment.
Ongoing consultation with an experienced southern California wage and hour attorney helps employers get ahead of potential problems without creating new ones.
The Effect of Pandemic Response and Other Legislation on Southern California Employers
Employers today must stand ready to deal with problems arising from the usual wage and hour matters as well as pandemic relief legislation aimed at helping California workers. One example is SB1383, which expands the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) effective January 1, 2021. SB1383 repealed and replaced the CFRA, which now applies to employers with as few as five employees. Applicable employers must provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to employees who need to be off work to care for a family member for reasons covered by the act, which now also includes a family member being called to active duty. Significantly changing directions, the new CFRA also prohibits employers from limiting to 12 weeks the combined leave for baby-bonding when both parents are employees.
AB2017 is also related to worker leave, specifically Kin Care Leave. This legislation revises California Labor Code Section 233, which allows an employee to take up to half of accrued sick leave to care for a family member as defined by the statute. To avoid the depletion of kin care time created by misclassification of leave time by the employer, AB2017 provides that the employee may designate whether the leave taken is for self-care or kin care.
One piece of new legislation is industry-specific, affecting only the security services employers. AB1512 is already in effect and requires unionized security guards to remain on call during rest breaks. This legislation nullifies the California Supreme Court’s ruling in Augustus v. ABM Security Services.
How to Be Prepared for Wage and Hour Issues in Southern California
California employers need multiple resources to be successful. Several government agencies provide information in their respective labor and employment areas:
- The Labor and Workforce Development Agency.
- The Employment Development Department.
- The Department of Industrial Relations.
- The Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
But self-help obtained from these or other government agencies cannot replace counsel from an experienced southern California wage and hour attorney. Wage and hours issues are too complex — and potentially too costly — to manage without professional guidance.
At the Law Offices of Susan A. Rodriguez, APC, we have over three decades of experience helping California employers with wage and hour, class action, PAGA, and other labor and employment matters. Susan A. Rodriguez and her colleagues help employers establish and maintain compliance with federal and state labor and employment laws, defend against employee claims, and prosecute employee theft. With our counsel, you will be equipped to avoid legal issues but in good hands if any should arise. To learn more about how we can help with wage and hour issues in Southern California or other employer matters, schedule a consultation by calling (213) 943-1323 or completing our online contact form.
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