2020 in Review: Significant Changes to Federal & CA Employment/Labor Laws 

It’s been a year like no other; 2020 has had many downs with very few ups to balance it out. Despite a global pandemic that spiked the unemployment rate to heights we hadn’t seen since the fallout of The Great Depression, both the U.S. Congress and the California Legislature introduced and passed a slew of laws that affected employees and business owners. Here’s a look at a few of the significant employment and labor laws that passed/or went into effect in 2020.

COVID-19 & the Workplace

Of course, at the top of both federal and state government laws were those that addressed the impacts of COVID-19 on employers and employees. At the federal level, Congress passed the CARES Act, Parts I & II, followed by the HEAL Act. Together, these laws provided aid to families and businesses affected by the pandemic and included resources such as giving eligible employees up to 10 weeks of paid family leave if they contracted or were impacted by COVID-19, funding for small businesses and independent contractors, as well as stimulus checks for individuals and couples who qualified.

In September 2020, the California legislature passed SB 1159 which expanded workers’ compensation benefits for individuals who contract COVID-19 in the workplace.  Significantly, SB 1159 relaxed the burden of proof for employees to receive workers’ compensation benefits. If there is an outbreak of the virus in the workplace, employees will be presumed to have contracted COVID-19 on the job. 

For a more in-depth look at these 2020 laws and what they provide, see my prior blogs on these topics by following the links below:

Other Significant California 2020 Employment Laws:

AB 5 – Codification and Expansion of Strict ABC Test for Independent Contractor Status:

Under the ABC Test, a worker is presumed to be an employee and the burden to demonstrate their independent contractor status is placed on the hiring company. 

A worker can only be classified as an independent contractor if:

  1. 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 work and in fact
  2. the person performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business
  3. the person is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed

To see my prior blog on this topic, click here.

Proposition 22 – Exempts App-Based Transportation and Delivery Companies from AB5

In the November 3, 2020 election, voters passed the much-debated California Proposition 22 in response to AB 5. The passage of AB 5 required many employers to reclassify workers previously classified as independent contractors to employees. This especially impacted the “on-demand” or gig economy industry companies such as Uber, Lyft and Instacart. 

Many of these companies did not immediately comply with AB5 but instead sought to stop enforcement of the law first through the court system and subsequently through the recently passed ballot measure California Proposition 22.

Proposition 22 will require that companies provide workers an hourly wage for the time the worker spends on rides equal to 120% of either the local or statewide minimum wage. Workers driving at least 15-hours per week receive a stipend for health insurance coverage and a larger stipend for workers driving 25 or more hours per week. Drivers have the opportunity to receive occupational accident insurance to cover on-the-job injuries, which would include coverage for medical expenses and disability benefits.  

Had Proposition 22 not passed, California gig-economy workers would have been classified as employees under Assembly Bill 5. That classification means, although these workers would have been entitled to a minimum wage and employee benefits afforded under California state law, they may have lost their flexibility to choose when and when not to work. By classifying gig workers as employees, it would have given the employer the ability to exert more control.

To see my prior blog on this topic, click here.

For more information regarding resources for employers, businesses, and employees during this time, connect with me on LinkedIn for new updates, or contact me here

Experienced Employment Law Attorney, Mediator, Arbitrator, Investigator, Legal and Media Commentator 

Twice-named a U.S. News Best Lawyer in America for employment and labor law, Angela Reddock-Wright is an employment and labor law attorney, mediator, arbitrator, and certified workplace and Title IX investigator (AWI-CH) in Los Angeles, CA. Known as the “Workplace Guru,” Angela is an influencer and leading authority on employment, workplace/HR, Title IX, hazing, and bullying issues.

Angela is a regular legal and media commentator and analyst and has appeared on such media outlets as Entertainment Tonight, Law and Crime with Brian Ross, Court TV, CNN, ABC, CBS, Fox 11 News, KTLA-5, the Black News Channel, Fox Soul – The Black Report, NPR, KPCC, Airtalk-89.3, KJLH Front Page with Dominique DiPrima, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times, Yahoo! Entertainment, People Magazine, Essence Magazine, the Los Angeles Sentinel, LA Focus, Daily Journal, Our Weekly and the Wave Newspapers.

Angela is a member of the panel of distinguished mediators and arbitrators with Judicate West, a California company that represents the gold standard in dispute resolution. She also owns her own dispute resolution law firm, the Reddock Law Group of Los Angeles, specializing in the mediation, arbitration, and investigation of employment discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and other workplace claims, along with Title IX, sexual assault, and misconduct, hazing and bullying cases.

For more information regarding resources for employers, businesses, and employees during this time, connect with Angela on LinkedIn for new updates, or contact her here

This communication is not legal advice. It is educational only. For legal advice, consult with an experienced employment law attorney in your state or city.


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