Men and women clicked and clacked on laptops, some had pens on paper, and all eyes and ears in full focus of Brian Koegle, of Greenspoon Marder LLP, as he broke down relevant information regarding updates to California law affecting businesses.
The Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with its title sponsor, Greenspoon Marder LLP, hosted the 2023 Employment Law Update on Thursday at the SCV Senior Center. During the 90-minute presentation, Koegle discussed information regarding the California Fair Pay Act, wage and hour updates, new family leave formulas and rights, and more.
“Usually, in our practices, if you’ve got an external payroll company or you’re doing it in-house, you want to make sure you’re looking through your payroll on an annual basis, at least,” Koegle said while he discussed California’s minimum wage. “If you are missing even one piece of this puzzle, it can be a critical violation.”
In California, there has been a minimum wage increase every single year for the past five years with a cap at $15 an hour. However, the Legislature over the summer determined inflationary rates have been so high, especially in the state, that people simply weren’t able to live on $15 an hour, according to Koegle.
In the state of California, minimum wage was set at $15.50, but the city of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County set minimum wage at $16.04 and at $15.96, respectively, with a potential increase depending on the Consumer Price Index.
“If you’re paying your employees even a dime less than that, you are in violation,” Koegle said. “Wage violations and overtime violations are precipitated penalties for liquidated damages and will attach many circumstances. So, be really thoughtful, make sure you go back and review all of your employees to ensure that they’re making more than $15.50 an hour.”
Koegle also reminded attendees that if they have employees working within the city of Los Angeles, whether it’s remotely or as delivery drivers, who work more than two hours in any given workday, that the city of L.A.’s minimum wage would apply under those circumstances.
He also advised business owners to ensure their salary employees were making enough. According to Koegle, a salary employee on average would be making approximately $64,480.
The California Fair Pay Act also mandates that employers disclose how much a position will pay. Employers need to ensure any listings for job openings include that information.
In addition, business owners need to ensure they classify all their employees correctly.
“If an employee comes forward with a complaint saying that they were misclassified… not just on behalf of the person, but on behalf of every contractor in your business,” Koegle said. “Independent contractor misclassification is probably the second or third highest number of claims outside of claims for missed meals and rest periods.”
Koegle emphasized meal periods and rest periods. In California, employees are entitled to receive a 30-minute uninterrupted meal break.
“You cannot round time punches or meal periods,” Koegle said. “It is an actual minute-to-minute punch for your punch box. A lot of the time, clocks that we get from our time and attendance companies’ payroll systems, ADP paychecks, or preprogrammed element to them, they may round up periods when it comes to lunches.”
According to Koegle, 60% or more of the litigation cases that Greenspoon Marder is working on carry an element of meal and rest period violations. His advice for employers is to document everything, and make sure all employees have four punches — one clocking in, one clocking out for lunch, in again and clocking out for the day.
Koegle then moved on to briefly review protected bereavement leave, the California Consumer Privacy Act, cannabis use and discrimination claims, retaliation rules related to employees refusing to work during public emergencies, and COVID-19 updates.
Taylor Adachi, executive director for Carousel Ranch in Santa Clarita, said she came to the presentation to learn about the new laws this year. She said she’s been coming to the chamber’s event for the past couple of years and it’s always informative.
“I’m able to treat my employees fairly, and to ensure we are in compliance,” Adachi said. “I think the biggest takeaway was how to make sure our [employee] handbook is up to date.”
“That’s something you constantly need to update because laws are changing — daily, weekly, monthly. It’s such an amazing tool for us,” she added.