However, there are certain risks that employers need to consider when recruiting and hiring talent beyond their traditional market areas.
As the COVID-19 pandemic approaches the one-year mark, federal, state and local governments have spent the last year continually developing new laws, regulations, ordinances, orders, and countless “guidance” documents and updates. It’s difficult, if not overwhelming at times, for employers to track the sheer number of resources.
To assist employers, the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency and the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) have consolidated resources for employers on a new website. The website doesn’t contain new guidance, meaning it doesn’t have new information that employers have to learn; instead, all the information is consolidated from existing agency guidance to create one central hub for employers to find all the rules and guidance applicable to them.
The website contains, for example, information and resources employers can use to make their workplaces safer, including:
- Training resources;
- COVID-19 laws that employers should be aware of (such as AB 685, SB 1159 and the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 emergency temporary standard);
- Communicating COVID-19 information to employees;
- Safety practices;
- Testing information; and
- Steps needed to reopen safely.
The website also consolidates information and resources related to employers’ obligations when an employee is sick or exposed to COVID-19, including recording and reporting requirements, outbreak information, cleaning procedures, leave benefits and return-to-work criteria.
The most helpful website tool is the COVID-19 Employer Portal. The portal generates a customized guidance “road map” based on information that an employer supplies. If employers are trying to figure out which guidance applies to their business, they can enter information about their business location, business type/industry, existing safety procedures and practices, and other details, and the portal generates a custom guide with the specific information applicable to them, including both state and local requirements and guidance.
This portal is a great place to start for employers planning to reopen or increase activities as their county moves through the COVID-19 tier system. It’s also a useful tool for employers who have remained open and are already complying with the myriad governmental laws, standards, orders and guidance because the tool can create a checklist to help ensure employers’ existing practices follow the latest state and local guidance.
Employers should consider adding the new website to their COVID-19 bookmark collection and monitor for further developments.
James W. Ward, Employment Law Subject Matter Expert/Legal Writer and Editor
CalChamber members can use the COVID-19 Prevention Program Checklist and COVID-19 Workplace Exposure Notification Checklists on HRCalifornia. Not a member? See how CalChamber can help you.
The post California Releases Employer COVID-19 Compliance Portal appeared first on HRWatchdog by James W. Ward.
Although the California Labor Commissioner has allocated many resources to enforcing COVID-19-related infractions during the pandemic, that doesn’t mean it’s turned a blind eye to traditional California labor laws. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Recently, in investigating allegations of illegal and unfair business practices, the California Labor Commissioner issued or had affirmed nearly $3.5 million in citations against employers for retaliation, unpaid wages and failure to comply with itemized statements provisions.
Closing Without Paying Workers
The California Labor Commissioner filed a lawsuit to collect nearly $1.3 million in unpaid wages and damages owed to 189 workers following the closure of a wholesale bakery in Southern California.
In November 2018, the bakery informed employees of layoffs through Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act notices. The bakery closed the following month without paying workers for their last two weeks of work or any of their accrued vacation wages. After the closure, creditors took possession of the bakery’s assets, except accounts receivable, and sold the property to new owners.
“State law provides that workers must be paid first when a business closes and its assets are sold,” said Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower in a press release.
Besides the lawsuit, the Labor Commissioner’s has cited the former bakery, new bakery and a private equity firm. The citations include $216,045 in minimum and contract wages, $20,855 in overtime wages, $58,716 in vacation wages, $190,704 in liquidated damages and $800,981 in waiting time penalties.
Even when closing down, an employer must still meet final pay requirements. Once an employee has their employment severed, they must be paid their final pay, including owed vacation and paid time off, to the best of the employer’s ability.
A Los Angeles fast food franchisee was cited $125,913 for workplace retaliation and labor law violations, including illegally firing four workers for reporting unsafe working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The workers had advised their employer about unsafe working conditions and participated in strikes over safety concerns before they were fired. The citations included $45,193 in lost wages, $40,000 in Section 98.6 retaliation penalties, $40,000 in Section 1102.50 retaliation penalties and $720 in interest due. In addition, the workers must be reinstated to their jobs, and any negative references must be removed from their personnel files.
Employers should be aware that the California Labor Code prohibits retaliating against an employee who blows the whistle to any government agency regarding any violation of a statute, regulation or rule. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) has a separate whistleblower retaliation protection.
A hearing officer upheld the Labor Commissioner’s $2 million in wage theft citations against a Southern California drywall contractor. The drywall contractor appealed the citations, but a hearing officer affirmed each citation in January 2021.
In 2018, a Labor Commissioner’s office investigation found that more than 472 workers across 26 construction projects were not properly compensated for overtime and/or rest breaks, and 28 workers were paid less than minimum wage. Citations were also issued for failing to comply with itemized statement provisions.
Enforcement investigations typically include a payroll audit of the previous three years to minimum wage, overtime and other labor law violations, and then calculate payments owed and penalties due.
“In construction, unscrupulous contractors attempt to obscure their wage theft by paying workers a flat rate rather than for all hours worked,” said then-Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su in a press release. “But a daily or other flat rate system does not take the place of minimum wage and overtime obligations.”
Employers should consult with legal counsel if they have any questions about final pay, potential retaliation claims and properly compensating employees.
Katie Culliton, Editor, CalChamber
CalChamber members can read more about Final Pay and Wage and Hour Enforcement and Penalties in the HR Library. Not a member? See what CalChamber can do for you.
The post Retaliation, Wage Theft Top Recent California Labor Commissioner Citations appeared first on HRWatchdog by Katie Culliton.