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CalChamber releases “2021 job killer list”

“Many of these bills — particularly the labor and employment ones — seem to be solutions in search of a problem,” said CalChamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg

Editor’s note: This article is reprinted with CalChamber’s permission and has been lightly edited for Aftermarket Matters.

Sacramento, Calif.—The California Chamber of Commerce released its annual job killer list on Monday, which includes bills that would place California employers and the state’s economy in harm’s way should they become law. Of particular concern, according to CalChamber, are proposed labor and employment mandates which would hit small business employers especially hard as they attempt to recover from losses experienced due to pandemic-related shutdowns.

“Many of these bills — particularly the labor and employment ones — seem to be solutions in search of a problem,” said CalChamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg.

Zaremberg also questioned why the Legislature is not working on ways to reduce costs on businesses struggling due to the pandemic. “Are policy makers unaware that unemployment filings increased last month? California employers cannot be the safety net for struggling workers. The billions of dollars coming to the state from the American Rescue Plan should be used to provide the safety net for struggling workers and help get businesses back up and running,” Zaremberg concluded.

The 2021 CalChamber Job Killer List includes the selection of the following bills, as quoted:

Labor and Employment Mandates

AB 95 (Low; D-Campbell) Burdensome New Bereavement Leave Mandate: Imposes a significant new burden on employers of every size by mandating that they provide employees bereavement leave upon the death of a spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or domestic partner, regardless of how long the employee has worked for the employer. The bill further opens up new avenues for litigation against California employers by establishing a brand new private right of action (in addition to liability under PAGA and administrative enforcement through the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement).

AB 995 (Gonzalez; D-San Diego) Costly Sick Leave Expansion on All Employers: Imposes new costs and leave requirements on employers of all sizes, by expanding the number of paid sick days employers are required to provide, which is in addition to all of the recently enacted leave mandates (COVID-19 sick leave, CalOSHA emergency paid time off, CFRA leave, workers’ compensation, etc.) that small employers throughout the state are already struggling with to implement and comply.

AB 1003 (Gonzalez; D-San Diego) Criminal Liability for Good Faith Mistakes: Despite California’s onerous, confusing, and always changing wage and hour laws, proposes to criminalize small employers, managers, and supervisors, who in good faith, make a mistake in the application of the law, that even the Labor Commissioner and the courts disagree with on how to interpret.

AB 1041 (Wicks; D-Oakland) Significant Expansion of Family Leave and Paid Sick Leave: Significantly expands multiple existing leave requirements in California that apply to employers of five or more, including small employers with limited employees who are struggling as a result of the pandemic, by allowing an employee to designate any person for whom they would like to take the leave, and subjecting the employer to costly litigation under the Fair Employment and Housing Act or the Labor Code Private Attorney General Act (PAGA), for any alleged interference, interruption, discouragement, or denial.

AB 1119 (Wicks; D-Oakland) Expansion of Duty to Accommodate Employees and Litigation Under FEHA: Imposes new burdens on employers to accommodate any employee with family responsibilities, which will essentially include a new, uncapped protected leave for employees to request time off for things such as school drop-off or pick-up, and exposes employers to costly litigation under the Fair Employment Housing Act that any adverse employment action was in relation to the employee’s family responsibilities, rather than a violation of employment policies.

AB 1179 (Carrillo; D-Los Angeles) Costly New Mandate on Employers to Pay for Employee Childcare: Imposes a new, costly mandate on public and private employers to cover up to 60 hours of employees’ childcare costs each year, with any alleged violation resulting in litigation under PAGA.

SB 213 (Cortese; D-San Jose) Expands Costly Presumption of Injury: Significantly increases workers’ compensation costs for public and private hospitals by presuming certain diseases and injuries are caused by the workplace and establishes an extremely concerning precedent for expanding presumptions into the private sector.

Government Regulation and Enforcement

SB 606 (Gonzalez; D-Long Beach) Expansion of Cal/OSHA Authority and Enforcement: Significantly expands CalOSHA authority by allowing it to multiply penalties potentially by 10x or 100x against employers, and shut down facilities that it has not even physically inspected. Finally, creates multiple new presumptions of retaliation that are duplicative of existing protections and will generate litigation.

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