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Reminders as Employers Prepare to Ring in the New Year

December 28, 2020, by Kasumi T. Roddick

This is the last part of our three-part newsletter preparing you for the new employment laws in 2021. We previously summarized the new COVID-19-related laws and other laws that impact the workplace and affect employer obligations and employee rights. This last part lists some workplace reminders for you to check off as you prepare to ring in the new year.

  • Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) – The FFCRA is the emergency federal legislation that was passed this year to provide paid family and sick leave to qualifying employees under certain COVID-19 circumstances. That law, however, expires December 31, 2020. So, while you’re reviewing and revising your employment policies and handbooks for the new year, you can eliminate that policy (for now). Despite the upcoming sunset on federal COVID-related paid leave requirements, we will have to wait and see whether it will be extended or whether new legislation will be passed to continue similar paid benefits, as communities continue to battle COVID-19. Due to the evolving nature of COVID-19 rules and regulations, we recommend that COVID-19 related policies be set forth separately from your standard employee handbook.
  • Sexual Harassment Training Requirement – The compliance deadline to have all your employees trained in sexual harassment prevention is January 1, 2021. Remember, employers with at least five employees must provide (a) at least two hours of sexual harassment training to supervisory employees and (b) at least one hour of training to non-supervisory employees every two years. And, don’t forget to document the trainings.
  • Posters and New Wage Orders – Employers should ensure that all of their workplace posters are current and that they have the newly revised industrial wage orders applicable to their businesses. The industrial wage orders were all revised last month and are now date-stamped 11/20 at the bottom.
  • Minimum Wage Annual Increase – The state minimum wage will increase to $14.00 per hour for employers with 25 or less employees and to $15.00 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees. (Please note, however, that there are more than 30 California cities with their own local minimum wage requirements, which also have to be complied with.) As a reminder, you must use the state minimum wage to determine the minimum salary threshold to classify an employee as an exempt employee for wage and hour purposes under the applicable industrial wage order. The California Minimum Wage rate increase schedule through 2023 can be accessed here:
  • Telecommuting Employees – As COVID-19 has changed many workplace policies and practices, it has forced many employees to work remotely or many employees have chosen to work remotely for health and safety reasons related to COVID-19. While telecommuting is a good option to keep employees safe and healthy during the global COVID-19 pandemic, it also raises many legal issues. For example, it not only raises concerns with productivity, but exposes the employer to legal liability concerning: non-exempt employee timekeeping and overtime; business expense reimbursements; maintaining employer health and safety controls remotely, including the requirement for reporting COVID-19 cases in the employee’s locality; complying with paid sick leave in the employee’s remote location; complying with wage and hour and other employment laws in the locality or state from which the employee may be working remotely; remote ergonomic concerns triggering workplace injuries and affecting the employers’ workers’ compensation coverages and insurance; and social media and online activity and etiquette, implicating the employers’ confidentiality policy and policy against harassment and discrimination. While not legally required, due to the plethora of legal issues that arise from telecommuting employees, we highly recommend that employers have a policy in place and an agreement with the employee governing any remote work arrangement. The policy and agreement should address all the issues mentioned above in order to clearly communicate the employer’s expectations and conditions for permitting remote work.
  • Employment Policy and Practices – With new employment laws becoming effective in 2021, ensure that your employment policies have been updated. Even more importantly, conduct a self-audit of your employment practices to ensure that not only are your policies are up to date, but that your supervisory employees and management are trained and know how to implement your company’s policies in daily practice.
  • Stay Current on COVID-19 Developments – Make sure you regularly check for regional or industry-related COVID-19 compliance updates. COVID-19 continues to permeate our communities and workplaces. So, act now by designating an employee to take on the role of workplace COVID-19 coordinator to keep track of state and local developments and how they may impact your workplace or alter the way you need to run your business. Also, stay tuned for upcoming Jones Bell newsletter topics on how COVID-19 affects workplace policies and practices.