An employment law expert said there wasn’t much good news for most California business owners, based on the legislative changes taking effect Jan. 1, but some employees might appreciate them.
Minimum-wage hikes for certain industries and more sick-pay requirements have once again raised the cost for employers, which was largely the audience for the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce’s annual employment law update at College of the Canyons.
“Let’s call it what it is, guys — you’re going to see more sick days on Mondays and Fridays than we’ve ever seen before, that’s going to happen,” said Brian Keogle, a partner in the labor and employment practice group at Greenspoon Marder LLP. Koegle’s law office is in Texas, but 90% of his practice remains in Califiornia, largely in the SCV, and he’s given the presentation annually for several years.
Koegle’s comment about three-day weekends referred to changes in the state’s paid sick-leave requirements, which upped the minimum requirement to 40 hours per year, up from 24 hours. This applies to part-time workers as well.
Another point Koegle made is that employers have to be careful about remote workers, because even if the employee spends a small amount of time in working in an area such as the city of Los Angeles, even if the business is based in the SCV, then the employee must be treated as an employee under the city of L.A.’s rules and protections. In the city of L.A. for example, employees must get 48 hours of sick pay.
He also discussed the minimum wage hikes: In California, it’s now $16 per hour for all employees, a $20-per-hour rate for fast-food employees, which takes place April 1, and a $25/hour rate for health care workers through Senate Bill 525, which was put on hiatus.
Koegle said one of the reasons the health care wage was paused was because once legislators attempted to roll out the legislation, which was supported by hospital and labor unions, a problem was realized. The way the law was written, the minimum wage applies to everyone who works or contracts with service on hospital grounds, not just health care providers, meaning it would apply to all contractors, including vendor services that work with the hospital.
He also reviewed pay-transparency laws that took effect last year but continue to create challenges for human resources because the regulations are relatively new.
Ivan Volschenk, president and CEO of the SCV Chamber of Commerce, said it was about making the information available to business owners, large and small, who might be impacted.
“As always, there are a multitude of new laws and changes to the laws that everyone needs to be aware of,” he said during the presentation. “We’re always happy to provide this update to provide the information at an accessible level to multiple employers.”
While the business landscape can be a complicated one for small-business owners, ultimately Koegle encouraged attendees to reach out if they have any questions.
Sometimes a quick consultation can lead to an understanding about rules and regulations that could save someone a lot of trouble, he added.
“I mean, an ounce of prevention is worth more than 1,000 pounds of cure at this point,” Koegle said. “Getting in front of these issues before they become a problem is absolutely critical to the success and survival of your business.”