CLOSE X
RSS Feed LinkedIn Instagram Twitter Facebook
Search:
FMG Law Blog Line

Archive for the ‘Employment Law Blog – CA’ Category

CARES in California: New Unemployment Benefits Available Under Federal Law

Posted on: May 8th, 2020

By: Anastasia Osbrink

With over 3.5 million unemployment claims in California since mid-March, the state is facing an historic level of payments that need to be made. In fact, the state has paid out approximately $4.5 billion, which is entirely unprecedented. Every state will be stretched thin, but at least for four months, unemployed Californians will see a significant increase in their unemployment payments thanks to the new federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or the “CARES” Act. Section 2104 of the CARES Act provides that those who qualify for unemployment benefits in participating states, which now includes California, will receive their normal weekly benefit amount, plus an additional $600 per week. This additional $600 is a federal supplement, known as Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (“PEUC”). In California, the average weekly unemployment benefit is $340. As a result of the PEUC, the average unemployment benefit check in California will increase to $940. The maximum benefit in California of $450 per week will also increase to $1050. These payments will be made through the Employment Development Department’s (“EDD”) debit cards as usual.

These benefits are not retroactive, and in California, they began on Sunday, April 12, 2020. The usual one-week waiting period for benefits is eliminated under section 2105 of the CARES Act. The additional $600 is only available while the individual would normally be eligible for benefits in that state. In California, this means benefits are available for 26 weeks. However, the additional $600 will cease on July 31, 2020 pursuant to the CARES Act and after that, the employee will receive their normal unemployment payment for the remainder of the 26-week period. Once the 26-week period is over, individuals will receive their normal benefit amount (though not the additional $600 after July 31, 2020) for a 13-week period pursuant to section 2107 of the CARES Act. That benefit and the waiver of the one-week waiting period will expire on December 31, 2020.

These benefits are obviously welcome aid for unemployed Californians. However, there are many issues the State continues to face. First, the CARES Act provides benefits for the first time to contract and furloughed workers and those in the gig economy. This means a whole new category of claims to process. That, coupled with business closures and layoffs, has resulted in a huge increase in claims. The extent of delays for individuals seeking benefits remains to be seen. Many applicants are unable to reach the EDD by phone because the EDD’s phone lines are open just four hours per day. Now that millions are trying to access the EDD, many are calling on the State to expand those hours. However, those administrative costs are paid for by employers through a federal tax, and federal funding was significantly reduced over the past several years due to the boom economy. As a result, EDD staffing was cut in half in California. Thus, half the amount of EDD staff is now struggling to process millions of claims. Federal law requires 90% of claims to be processed within 21 days. California came close to that in February and has appeared to largely keep up with it in March and April thanks to a more streamlined temporary process that has been implemented. This includes waiving some verification requirements until after payments are issued, no longer requiring claimants to recertify their claims every two weeks, and processing more claims through an automated system. However, significant delays have been reported for employees who were misclassified as independent contractors by employers and did not have their wages reported to the EDD, which is doing a wage audit. Many of these claimants have reported waiting six weeks or more before receiving benefits.

Additionally, it appears likely that it will be a long time before life returns to normal (though it will certainly be a new “normal” and not the normal we used to know), and the economy will take even longer to recover. This means months, and likely years of high unemployment in the State. How that unemployment will be paid for in the long run will be a significant challenge. In an effort to address this challenge, California became the first state in the country to take out a federal loan. As of April 30th, California has borrowed $348 million from the federal government and has been approved to borrow up to $10 billion. This is not the first time the state has taken out such a loan. California borrowed $10.7 billion from the federal government during the Great Recession that it just finished paying back in 2018, including hundreds of millions of dollars in interest. As of now, this appears to be California’s best option to stay afloat during what has become the highest period of unemployment since the Great Depression. Regardless, we can appreciate the reprieve and aid offered by the CARES Act.

Additional Information:

The FMG Coronavirus Task Team will be conducting a series of webinars on Coronavirus issues on a regular basis. Topics include real estate issues, business interruption losses, and more. Click here to view upcoming webinars.

FMG has formed a Coronavirus Task Force to provide up-to-the-minute information, strategic advice, and practical solutions for our clients.  Our group is an interdisciplinary team of attorneys who can address the multitude of legal issues arising out of the coronavirus pandemic, including issues related to Healthcare, Product Liability, Tort Liability, Data Privacy, and Cyber and Local Governments.  For more information about the Task Force, click here.

You can also contact your FMG relationship partner or email the team with any questions at [email protected].

**DISCLAIMER:  The attorneys at Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP (“FMG”) have been working hard to produce educational content to address issues arising from the concern over COVID-19.  The webinars and our written material have produced many questions. Some we have been able to answer, but many we cannot without a specific legal engagement.  We can only give legal advice to clients.  Please be aware that your attendance at one of our webinars or receipt of our written material does not establish an attorney-client relationship between you and FMG.  An attorney-client relationship will not exist unless and until an FMG partner expressly and explicitly states IN WRITING that FMG will undertake an attorney-client relationship with you, after ascertaining that the firm does not have any legal conflicts of interest.  As a result, you should not transmit any personal or confidential information to FMG unless we have entered into a formal written agreement with you.  We will continue to produce education content for the public, but we must point out that none of our webinars, articles, blog posts, or other similar material constitutes legal advice, does not create an attorney client relationship and you cannot rely on it as such.  We hope you will continue to take advantage of the conferences and materials that may pertain to your work or interests.**

Under Attack Again: California Attorney General Announces Misclassification Lawsuit Against Uber and Lyft

Posted on: May 7th, 2020

By: Ryan Greenspan

On May 5, 2020, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced that the State of California will be suing Uber and Lyft for misclassifying their drivers as independent contractors.  The precise details of the suit are not presently known, but it is being reported that Uber and Lyft are being accused of violating Assembly Bill 5, went into effect on January 1, 2020 and dramatically changed the legal requirements in California to qualify as an independent contractor.

In Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court, the California Supreme Court established a 3-factor test employers must satisfy to prove that a worker is properly classified as an independent contractor.  Employers must prove the following:

1) that the worker has freedom from control over how to perform the services they provide;

2) that the services provided are outside the business’s normal variety; and

3) that the worker is engaged in an independently established role. 

Assembly Bill 5 codified the Dynamex decision while carving out limited exceptions.  Assembly Bill 5 was expected to significantly impact several of the app-based companies based in California, particularly those commonly known as being part of the “gig economy.”  Companies such as Uber and Lyft have always classified their drivers as independent contractors, which afforded workers the opportunity to set their own hours and work for multiple companies, but also meant those workers did not receive various benefits afforded to employees, such as healthcare, workers’ compensation, expense reimbursements, and a guarantee that they would be paid at least the minimum wage. 

Enforcement litigation does not come as a surprise.  Shortly after Assembly Bill 5 went into effect, Uber and Lyft announced that they would refuse to reclassify their drivers as employees.  In February 2020, a federal judge denied a request from Uber and food delivery company Postmates for a preliminary injunction that would have exempted them from the new law.

Prior to Assembly Bill 5 going into effect, Uber and Lyft assisted in the funding of a statewide ballot measure known as the Protect App-Based Drivers & Services Act.  The Act is expected to be voted upon in the November 2020 election.  If passed, companies such as Uber and Lyft would continue to be permitted to classify their drivers as independent contractors while providing several benefits to their workers, such as a guarantee of at least 120% of the minimum wage, 30 cents per mile for expenses, and a healthcare stipend. 

Uber and Lyft have largely been able to defend or settle a series of class action lawsuits over the issue of worker classification.  However, an enforcement lawsuit from the state presents a unique challenge to the app-based companies because there is less opportunity to reach a settlement than there is with a private plaintiffs’ attorney.

While this case is in its infancy, the outcome will have a tremendous impact on the approximately 500,000 drivers working for Uber and Lyft in California, as well as thousands more who work for companies such as Doordash. If you have any questions or would like more information on this lawsuit or Assembly Bill 5, please contact Ryan Greenspan at [email protected].                        

Los Angeles Mayor Issues Executive Order Requiring Employers To Provide COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave For Employees

Posted on: April 14th, 2020

By: Michelle Harrington

What Does The Executive Order Require: The COVID-19 crisis has employers scrambling to stay on top of legal obligations imposed by recent federal legislation, including the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act, and various state law initiatives aimed at providing leave or unemployment benefits to employees affected by COVID-19.   Now, Los Angeles has entered the mix and, effective April 7, 2020, employers that have either 500 or more employees in the City or 2,000 or more employees nationally must provide supplemental paid sick leave of up to two weeks (80 hours) for COVID-19 related reasons to employees living within the City of Los Angeles.  The paid sick leave required to be provided under this Order is in addition to the paid sick leave employers are currently obligated to provide under California’s Healthy Workplaces Healthy Families Act and the Los Angeles paid sick leave ordinance. 

The complete supplemental paid sick leave Order may be viewed here, and sets forth the following:

Employees Covered by the Order: All Employees who have been employed by the same employer from February 3, 2020 through March 4, 2020 who have performed work within the geographic boundaries of the City of Los Angeles are entitled to supplemental paid sick leave. 

Employers Covered by the Order: An employer is a person (as defined in Section 18 of the California Labor Code) including a corporate officer or executive, who directly or through an agent or any other person, including through a temporary service or staffing agency or similar entity, employs or exercises control over the wages, hours or working conditions of any Employee.  The Order applies to Employers that have either 500 or more employees in the City of Los Angeles or 2,000 or more employees within the United States.

Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Employers Must Provide: An employee who works at least 40 hours a week or is classified as full-time by the employer is entitled to 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave.  This leave is calculated based upon an employee’s average two-week pay over the period of February 3, 2020 through March 4, 2020.  Employees who work less than forty hours per week and are not classified as full-time are entitled to supplemental paid sick leave in an amount no greater than the employee’s average two-week pay over the period of February 3, 2020 through March 4, 2020.

Maximum Compensation Employers Must Pay for Leave: The supplemental paid sick leave amount paid to an employee shall not exceed $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate.

Qualifying Reasons for Supplemental Paid Sick Leave: Employees are entitled to take supplemental paid sick leave if they are unable to work or telework for any of the following reasons:

  1. the employee takes time off due to COVID-19 infection or because a public official or healthcare provider requires or recommends the employee self-isolate or quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19;
  2. the employee takes time off work because the employee is 65 years old or older or has a health condition such as heart, lung or kidney disease, asthma, diabetes or a weakened immune system;
  3. the employee takes time off to care for a family member who is not sick but who public health officials or healthcare providers have required or recommended isolation or self-quarantine; or
  4. the employee takes time off to provide care for a family member who requires care due to the temporary closure of a senior care facility, school or child care provider caring for a child under the age of 18 where such employee is unable to secure a reasonable alternative caregiver.

Employers May Not Require Doctor’s Note as Condition of Leave: An employer may not require a doctor’s note or other documentation for the use of supplemental paid sick leave.  The employee can request the leave verbally or in writing. 

Offset for Prior Allowance of Paid Sick Leave: The obligation to provide 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave under the Order can be reduced for every hour that the employer allowed an employee to take other paid leave in an amount equal to or greater than such 80 hour requirement (not including previously accrued hours) on or after March 4, 2020 for any of the reasons listed in 1-4, above or in response to an employee’s inability to work due to COVID-19.

Exemptions for Certain Employers: The following employers are exempt from providing supplemental paid sick leave:

  1. Employers of Emergency and Health Services Personnel.  Employers of an employee who is either Emergency Personnel or a health care worker.  Emergency Personnel refers to individuals specified in the April 1, 2020 City of Los Angeles Safer at Home emergency order Paragraph 5(vi), including all first responders, gang and crisis intervention workers, public health workers, emergency management personnel, emergency dispatchers, law enforcement personnel and related contractors and others working for emergency services providers.  A health care worker includes those individuals described in California Government Code Section 12945.2(c)(6) or individuals, including contract workers, working at a health facility licensed under California Health and Safety Code Section 1250;
  2. Employers of Critical Parcel Delivery.  Employers that provide global parcel delivery services;
  3. Employers with Generous Leave.  Employers that have a paid leave or paid time off policy that provides a minimum of 160 hours of paid leave annually do not have to provide supplemental paid leave to any employee that received the more generous leave;
  4. Employers of New Businesses.  Employers that started businesses in the City of Los Angeles on or after September 4, 2019 through March 4, 2020 (not including construction businesses as defined by Los Angeles Municipal Code (“LAMC”) section 21.30 b.1 or film producers as defined by LAMC 21.109).  To qualify, an employer could not have been in business in the City of Los Angeles in the 2018 tax year;
  5. Government Employers.  Government agencies; or
  6. Employers of Closed Businesses and Organizations.  Employers that were closed or not operating for a period of 14 or more days due to a city official’s emergency order because of the COVID-19 or provided at least 14 days of leave.

Employee Enforcement of Order: The Order allows an employee who claims a violation of the Order to bring a civil action in the Superior Court of California.  The employee can seek civil remedies, including reinstatement, back pay, supplemental paid sick leave at the rate of the employee’s average rate of pay, other legal or equitable relief, and reasonable attorney’s fees and costs of suit.

Retaliation and Discrimination Prohibited: The Order prohibits retaliating or discriminating against an employee for opposing any practice proscribed by the Order, for requesting to use or actually using supplemental paid sick leave, for participating in proceedings related to the Order, for seeking to enforce the employee’s rights under the Order by lawful means, or otherwise asserting rights under the Order. 

No Waiver of Employee Rights Under the Order: Any waiver by an employee of any or all of the provision of the Order shall be deemed contrary to public policy and void and unenforceable.

Relationship to Other State and Federal Laws: With the exception of rights and remedies provided to employees under the FFCRA, the Order provides rights and remedies in addition to or independent of any other rights, remedies or procedures available under any other laws and do not diminish, alter, or negate any other legal rights, remedies, or procedures available to an employee. Nothing in the Order should be interpreted or applied to create any power or duty in conflict with any federal or state law. 

Impact of Collective Bargaining Agreements: The terms of a collective bargaining agreement in effect on April 7, 2020 supersede the Order if such agreement contains COVID-19 related sick leave provisions.  A collective bargaining agreement that expires or becomes open for renegotiation may expressly waive the provisions of the Order.  If an agreement is in place on April 7, 2020 but does not address COVID-19 related sick leave provisions, the employer must comply with the Order until the agreement is amended to expressly waive the provisions of the Order. 

Duration of Supplemental Paid Sick Leave: The Order is in effect from April 7, 2020 up until two weeks after the COVID-19 local emergency period ends.

Additional Information:

The FMG Coronavirus Task Team will be conducting a series of webinars on Coronavirus issues on a regular basis. Topics include COVID-19’s impact on finances and loans, the FFCRA, the CARES Act and more. Click here to view upcoming webinars.

FMG has formed a Coronavirus Task Force to provide up-to-the-minute information, strategic advice, and practical solutions for our clients.  Our group is an interdisciplinary team of attorneys who can address the multitude of legal issues arising out of the coronavirus pandemic, including issues related to Healthcare, Product Liability, Tort Liability, Data Privacy, and Cyber and Local Governments.  For more information about the Task Force, click here.

You can also contact your FMG relationship partner or email the team with any questions at [email protected].

**DISCLAIMER:  The attorneys at Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP (“FMG”) have been working hard to produce educational content to address issues arising from the concern over COVID-19.  The webinars and our written material have produced many questions. Some we have been able to answer, but many we cannot without a specific legal engagement.  We can only give legal advice to clients.  Please be aware that your attendance at one of our webinars or receipt of our written material does not establish an attorney-client relationship between you and FMG.  An attorney-client relationship will not exist unless and until an FMG partner expressly and explicitly states IN WRITING that FMG will undertake an attorney-client relationship with you, after ascertaining that the firm does not have any legal conflicts of interest.  As a result, you should not transmit any personal or confidential information to FMG unless we have entered into a formal written agreement with you.  We will continue to produce education content for the public, but we must point out that none of our webinars, articles, blog posts, or other similar material constitutes legal advice, does not create an attorney client relationship and you cannot rely on it as such.  We hope you will continue to take advantage of the conferences and materials that may pertain to your work or interests.**

U.S. Department of Education Announces Temporary Halting of Wage Garnishments

Posted on: March 30th, 2020

By: Jeffrey A. Hord

On March 25, 2020, the Department of Education (DOE) announced that it will temporarily halt seizing wages and/or withholding tax refunds from borrowers who have defaulted on their student loans held by the federal government.  As part of the Trump Administration’s multifaceted response to the COVID-19 national emergency, the DOE has suspended any wage garnishments and stopped all requests to the U.S. Treasury Department to withhold money from defaulted borrowers.  The directive is retroactive to March 13, 2020, and will last for a period of at least sixty (60) days.  The DOE also instructed private collection agencies to stop all “proactive collection activities,” including making phone calls to borrowers and issuing collection letters and billing statements.

Employers who are responsible for properly processing wage garnishments should take note of this announcement.  In its official press release, the DOE emphasized that, while borrowers whose paychecks were being garnished will now be entitled to their full wage, it is the responsibility of the employer to make the necessary change to the employee’s paycheck:

“The Department must rely on employers to make the change to borrowers’ paychecks, so it will monitor employers’ compliance with the request to stop wage garnishment. Borrowers whose wages continue to be garnished after March 13 should contact their employers’ human resources department.”

While the directive unambiguously prohibits “new” wage garnishments, Social Security offsets, and collection actions, the DOE’s announcement leaves some room for doubt as to whether garnishments and offsets put into effect prior to March 13, 2020 are similarly impacted.  However, in a contemporaneous set of FAQ published on the DOE’s official Federal Student Aid website, the Department seemed to clearly signal its intent:

If your wages continue to be garnished after the president’s March 13, 2020, announcement, you should contact your employer’s human resources department. If DOE receives funds from your paycheck that should have been stopped as a result of the March 13 announcement, we will refund your garnished wages.

The good news for employers who make payments towards their employees’ outstanding student loans as a benefit of employment is that they can now do so tax-free until January 1, 2021, for up to $5,250 annually.

Additional Information:

The FMG Coronavirus Task Team will be conducting a series of webinars on Coronavirus issues on a regular basis.  On April 2, we will discuss the impact of Coronavirus on law enforcement.  Click here to register.

FMG has formed a Coronavirus Task Force to provide up-to-the-minute information, strategic advice, and practical solutions for our clients. Our group is an interdisciplinary team of attorneys who can address the multitude of legal issues arising out of the Coronavirus pandemic, including issues related to Healthcare, Product Liability, Tort Liability, Data Privacy, and Cyber and Local Governments. For more information about the Task Force, click here.

You can also contact your FMG relationship partner or email the team with any questions at [email protected].

**DISCLAIMER: The attorneys at Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP (“FMG”) have been working hard to produce educational content to address issues arising from the concern over COVID-19. The webinars and our written material have produced many questions. Some we have been able to answer, but many we cannot without a specific legal engagement. We can only give legal advice to clients. Please be aware that your attendance at one of our webinars or receipt of our written material does not establish an attorney-client relationship between you and FMG. An attorney-client relationship will not exist unless and until an FMG partner expressly and explicitly states IN WRITING that FMG will undertake an attorney-client relationship with you, after ascertaining that the firm does not have any legal conflicts of interest. As a result, you should not transmit any personal or confidential information to FMG unless we have entered into a formal written agreement with you.  We will continue to produce education content for the public, but we must point out that none of our webinars, articles, blog posts, or other similar material constitutes legal advice, does not create an attorney client relationship and you cannot rely on it as such. We hope you will continue to take advantage of the conferences and materials that may pertain to your work or interests.**

Just Don’t Go There: The Ninth Circuit Rules that Prior Pay History Can’t Be Used To Justify Compensation Decisions

Posted on: March 10th, 2020

By: Anastasia Osbrink

For years, employers across the U.S. have taken into account what an individual was making at his or her current job in assessing how much they would need to pay them if they left and joined the employer.   And, for years, when one employee claimed discrimination based upon sex under the federal Equal Pay Act because he or she was not paid as much as another employee of another sex performing similar duties, the employer would rely upon prior pay as a basis for the pay differential between the two employees.

Well, no more in states in the Ninth Circuit (Alaska, Arizona, California and Hawaii).  The Ninth Circuit recently made clear that employers cannot justify pay disparity between employees based on pay history from prior jobs under the Equal Pay Act. (Rizo v. Yovino, No. 16-15372 [9th Cir. Feb. 27, 2020] [en banc].)  The defendant in Rizo, the Fresno County Office of Education, argued that the plaintiff’s disparity in pay fell did not violate the Equal Pay Act because the County sets new employees’ salaries based on a 5% raise over their previous salaries. The Ninth Circuit disagreed with the defendant, holding that pay history from a prior job is not job-related and not an acceptable basis for a pay disparity.

Additionally, the Ninth Circuit pointed out that it would defeat the purpose of the Equal Pay Act to allow pay disparity based on gender to self-perpetuate because of prior discriminatory pay. It is also worth noting that in 2018, AB 168 made it illegal in California to seek salary histories from job applicants. Therefore, not only is it illegal for employers in California to ask about salary history, it is now also clear based on the ruling in Rizo that they should not base a system of pay on prior job salaries even if that information is voluntarily provided by job applicants.

Please contact Anastasia F. Osbrink at [email protected] if you have any follow-up questions about the Rizo ruling.