published on November 17, 2020 - 11:13 AM
Written by Gordon Webster, Jr.

It’s hard to know what sort of economic climate California business owners will wake up to on Jan. 1, 2021. It’s a good bet that it won’t be great. On top of that, there are a couple of new laws coming on the books for the first of the year that employers should be aware of.

“I wish we could tell small businesses that fewer regulations and lower taxes were coming their way starting January 1,” said John Kabateck, California state director for the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB, which released the list, “but not even a pandemic could throw our State Legislature off course from their mad drive to create more burdens.”

The two laws to look out for, according to the NFIB, include:

Changes made to the California Family Rights Act via Senate Bill 1383, which, among other things, dropped the employee threshold for complying with the law from 50 to five or more employees. Furthermore, the new leave time provisions can be taken in segments, including a whole day, and the new law severely crimps the flexibility of employers to work with their employees. Yes, it’s unpaid leave, but benefits must still be paid, and the job must be there for a returning employee

New notification requirements for exposure to Covid-19 brought about by Assembly Bill 685. Sacramento attorney Ben Ebbink and NFIB California’s chief legislative advocate Kevin Pedrotti talk about what triggers an obligation to notify employees and if the information is public in this half-hour podcast.

Another piece of legislation already in effect to watch is Senate Bill 1159, which codifies Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order that presumes an employee’s illness related to coronavirus is an occupational injury eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. There are a number of important questions business owners have about this, including:

What is a conclusive presumption vs. a rebuttable presumption? Will workers’ compensation premiums go up for small-business owners?

“Essentially what this [new law] is doing, if you take a step back, is it’s shifting the medical costs of the COVID crisis onto the backs of the workers’ compensation system,” said Ebbink.

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