Last Saturday was the deadline for California Governor Gavin Newsom to either sign or veto the roughly 1,000 bills that made it to his desk. Below is a recap of some of the most notable employment bills that the Governor signed or vetoed.
Higher Minimum Wages
Governor Newsom signed a pair of bills, AB 1228 and SB 525, that set higher minimum wages for workers in the fast food and healthcare industries. Under AB 1228, fast-wood workers’ minimum wage will be bumped to $20 an hour in April. Hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers in the state will see their minimum wage eventually increased to $25 an hour under SB 525.
Employers Lose a Delay Tactic
SB 365 allows employment lawsuit proceedings to move forward, rather than pause, when defendants appeal orders denying a request to compel arbitration. Governor Newsom signed the bill, effectively undercutting a tactic that sometimes-allowed employers to delay cases for years at a time.
More Paid Sick Days
Starting next year, California’s workers will be entitled to at least five days of paid sick leave, up from the current minimum of three days, as a result of Governor Newsom signing SB 616.
Family Caregiver bill Nixed
In a defeat for employees, the Governor vetoed AB 524, a bill that would have added “family caregiver status” to the list of protected characteristics that employers cannot consider when making employment decisions such as hiring and firing.
No Unemployment Benefits while on Strike
SB 799 would have allowed workers to collect unemployment insurance benefits while on strike. Governor Newsom vetoed the bill, citing the multi-billion-dollar debt that California’s unemployment insurance program incurred to keep benefits flowing during the pandemic.
To see what other important employment bills were signed and vetoed by the Governor, click here.
Lauren Teukolsky was selected to moderate a session at CELA’s (California Employment Lawyer Association) upcoming 36th Annual Employment Law Conference. The session is titled, “Arbitrating Wage & Hour Cases from Start to Finish,” and will address strategies for plaintiff-side employment attorneys to pursue in wage-and-hour arbitrations. At the session, Ms. Teukolsky will guide a conversation with Amy Semmel, a mediator and arbitrator at Semmel ADR, Steven Tindall, a partner at Gibbs Law Group LLP, and Jason Whooper, Managing Attorney at W Law.
CELA is a statewide organization that works to protect and expand the legal rights of workers through litigation, education, and advocacy. Their annual employment law conferences provide days-long arrays of educational sessions and talks in addition to serving as networking forums for California’s plaintiff-side employment attorneys. This year’s conference is in San Francisco and will begin on Thursday, September 28th. The conference will conclude on Friday, September 30th.
Ms. Teukolsky has worked to protect employees’ rights for over two decades and regularly speaks at events and panels on employment law. Most recently, Ms. Teukolsky appeared on a pair of panels hosted by the Alameda County Bar Association and Beverly Hills Bar Association.
To learn more about Ms. Teukolsky’s practice, click here. For more information on CELA’s 36th Annual Employment Law Conference and a complete schedule of its sessions, click here.
Thursday, September 14th marked the deadline for California’s two legislative bodies – the state assembly and state senate – to pass bills. Bills passed by both bodies will now head to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk, where the governor will have one month to determine which bills to sign into law.
The employment bills Mr. Newsom will consider for approval run the gamut, from legislation on caregiver discrimination to bills increasing paid sick days. Below is a recap of the bills at the governor’s desk that figure to have the greatest impact on California’s workers if approved.
Family Caregiver Discrimination – AB 524
AB 524 would amend the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) by adding “family caregiver status” to the list of protected characteristics that employers cannot take into account when making employment decisions such as hiring and firing.
Consideration of this bill comes at a critical time. Caregivers are the fastest growing workplace identity group and may make up us much as 73% of the American workforce. More than 63 million Americans care for at least one child, and 40.4 million Americans provide unpaid care to someone aged 65 years or older. The pandemic’s aftermath and America’s rapidly aging population have only exacerbated the challenges faced by caregivers.
Arbitration Appeal Delays – SB 365
When trial courts find that a forced arbitration agreement is invalid, employers frequently use delay tactics, such as filing an appeal, that can effectively pause a case for years at a time. If signed into law, SB 365 would undercut such tactics and allow employment lawsuits to move forward when defendants file appeals involving a petition to compel arbitration.
WARN Act Expansion – AB 1356
California’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act protects employees by requiring employers to give a 60-day notice to affected employees before a plant closing or mass layoff. AB 1356 would expand the WARN Act’s protections by requiring employers to provide employees with 75 days of advance notice. It would also prohibit employers from requiring employees to waive their rights by signing onerous severance agreements with releases and non-disparagement provisions in exchange for the payment of back wages. The bill was inspired by the massive layoffs at tech companies like Google and Meta, particularly Elon Musk’s alleged mishandling of layoffs at the company formerly known as Twitter.
Additional Paid Sick Days- SB 616
SB 616 would require California’s employers to provide workers with five days of paid sick leave instead of the current allotment of three. Increasing the number of paid sick will reduce the frequency at which workers, particularly low-income workers, are forced to make difficult decisions between foregoing pay and going to work sick. If signed into law, the bill is also expected to strengthen public health protections. According to the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, “paid sick leave guarantees are seen by many public health experts as one of the strongest tools in stopping the spread of infectious diseases.”
For a list of other employment bills heading to Mr. Newsom’s desk, click here. The governor will have until October 14th to sign bills from this year’s legislative session into law.
Teukolsky Law Files NEW Lawsuit UNDER AB 51 CHALLENGING EMPLOYER'S REQUIREMENT THAT EMPLOYEE WAIVE HER ACCESS TO COURTS AS A CONDITION OF EMPLOYMENT
On Friday, April 8, Teukolsky Law filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of April Blackwell, a 37-year-old Black woman, against The Pendry West Hollywood, a luxury hotel owned by Montage International on the iconic Sunset Strip. The lawsuit is the first of its kind, alleging that the Pendry terminated Ms. Blackwell because she said she did not want to sign a mandatory arbitration agreement giving up her ability to sue the Pendry for race discrimination and similar claims in a court of law.
Forcing job applicants and employees to sign forced arbitration agreements was recently made illegal in California by Assembly Bill 51 (AB 51). Under forced arbitration agreements, all claims made by workers—regardless of their severity—must be resolved under private arbitration, a process that overwhelmingly favors employers, disproportionately harms historically marginalized communities, and shields corporations from public scrutiny and accountability. As a condition of employment, The Pendry required Ms. Blackwell to give up her right to access the courts, her right to a jury trial, her right to appeal an erroneous decision, and her right to conduct full discovery to prosecute her claims. When she refused to give up her rights, the Pendry fired her after just one day of work.
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 51 into law in late 2019 after widespread public outrage over arbitration agreements that hid allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and other prominent figures. The fate of AB 51 is currently in limbo. In 2021, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld AB 51 in Chamber of Commerce of United States v. Bonta, 13 F.4th 766, 771 (9th Cir. 2021) (“Bonta”). However, the Ninth Circuit is deferring a vote on whether to rehear Bonta until after the United States Supreme Court issues a ruling in another arbitration case argued in late March 2022.
Still, even if AB 51 is ultimately struck down, Ms. Blackwell’s claims against the Pendry will survive because California law protects employees who are terminated for expressing opposition to conduct they reasonably believe is unlawful, which is exactly what Ms. Blackwell did.
To view the complaint, click here.
Lauren Teukolsky is the founder and owner of Teukolsky Law, A Professional Corporation.