2019 gearing up to be a busy year for employment legislation

With nearly 3000 bills having been introduced, this year is sure to be a busy one for the California legislature. Among the several major issues on the agenda, the legislature will have a number of employment-related bills to consider.

This week saw the unveiling of the first substantive language in AB 5, the bill introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzales (D-San Diego), to codify the California Supreme Court’s decision in the Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court. The Dynamex decision makes it more difficult for businesses to classify their workers as independent contractors, and has caused major concern in the newspaper industry due to the impacts it will have on newspapers’ ability to contract with carriers and freelance journalists.

The language introduced this week for AB 5 rolls back the application of the Dynamex decision for certain classes of workers, including insurance agents, physicians, securities brokers, and direct sellers. It’s expected that as negotiations with labor representatives continue, more classes of workers will be taken outside the purview of Dynamex. CNPA is working on a legislative fix to allow the continued ability to contract with newspaper carriers and freelance journalists.

Extending the circumstances under which employees are able to take time off is also a hot topic in the legislature this year. CNPA has joined a coalition of business groups opposing two bills set to be heard in the Assembly Labor Committee next week that would give employees the right to take two new types of job-protected leave, creating significant challenges for employers trying to manage their workforces.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta’s (D-Oakland) AB 628 would allow an employee to take a leave of absence if the employee him or herself was a victim of sexual harassment or to provide support to a family member who was a victim. There is no requirement that the sexual harassment have occurred in the workplace, or the employee provide verification of the harassment if the employee gives advanced notice of his or her intent to take leave. The bill uses a definition of sexual harassment that differs from the standard traditionally used in sexual harassment cases, creating the prospect that certain conduct could be considered sexual harassment for some purposes but not others.

AB 1224 by Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) creates a new type of family leave. The bill is intended to allow part-time workers to take up to 12 weeks of leave to bond with a new child or care for themselves or a family member, but the bill would go much farther than that. As written, AB 1224 states that the new type of leave cannot be required to be taken concurrently with leave taken under existing state and federal law. What this means in practice is that a California employer would be required to provide up to 24 weeks of protected leave for full-time and some part-time employees.