Brian Koegle, a partner at Poole Shaffery & Koegle, LLP, spoke with a group of small-business owners and members of the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce recently about the latest changes in employment law.
The conversation was hosted by the Chamber of Commerce as part of the Small Business Roundtable series.
In an interactive conversation, Koegle reviewed and answered questions about hour and wage requirements, reporting requirements and leave laws.
On wages and hours, he advised that small business owners be careful when classifying employees.
“When we misclassify (employees), we’ve exposed our business to liability for overtime violations or meal period penalties, rest period penalties, unpaid minimum wages,” he said. “All kinds of different exposures that come into play.”
Koegle said a new law will impact businesses that hire minors.
“If you bring in your niece to work for a summer and help organize some paperwork so she can get some work experience, you are now an employer of minors and you, your office manager or your human resources team are now mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect,” he said.
Koegle advised against taking on the new risk now associated with hiring employees under 18 years of age.
“If you don’t have to hire a minor don’t hire a minor — the risk went up exponentially for businesses when this law passed,” he said of Assembly Bill 1963.
Laws, Koegle said, have changed to expand family and baby-bonding leave, too.
He said the laws now apply to all business with five or more employees, whereas previously businesses with 50 or more employees were required to provide family leave and business of 20 or more employees had to provide baby-bonding leave.
“You could technically be without an employee for more than half a year on an unpaid leave of absence, and you must hold their job open for them,” Koegle said, noting the leave also extends to those caring for a family member or themselves due to a medical condition or physical disability.
Health care coverage was also covered during the one-and-a-half-hour webinar. Koegle said employers are now obligated to provide employees who were “involuntarily terminated” since the start of the pandemic with COBRA continuation coverage of medical insurance premium benefits.
“For a period of up to six months for all benefits elected between April 1, 2021, and Sept. 30, 2021,” he said, noting employers will be reimbursed for the cost with a tax credit. “It technically isn’t going to cost you money at the end of the year, but at least in the interim, that would be cash out of pocket.”
The continuation of medical coverage was mandated as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, signed into law by President Joe Biden earlier this year.
“Whether you agree with it politically or not, if you fail to follow regulations and protocols issued by governmental agencies, you are exposing your business to liability, you will be sued,” Koegle said.