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Here’s what California employers need to know about new laws taking effect in 2022

As of Jan. 1, California’s minimum wage will increase to $15 per hour or $14 per hour, depending on the number of workers at a given business. (AP Photo/Nick Ut--File July 21, 2015)
Written by Publishing Team

A new year will bring new laws for businesses to follow, including a higher minimum wage, increased workplace safety and an extended family leave.

For starters, California’s minimum wage will increase on January 1 to $15 an hour for companies with 26 or more employees, and $14 an hour for companies with 25 or fewer workers. Graduated minimum wage increases were signed into law in 2015 by the then government. Jerry Brown.

However, some jurisdictions have their own laws that already override higher minimum wage laws about to take effect.

“Every year, California and local cities change the minimum wage,” said Lisa Ann Hilario, a labor law specialist with Santa Rosa-based Spaulding McCullough & Tancel. “From an out-of-pocket perspective,” she added, increases in the minimum wage make the biggest impact on company expenses.

And what is unique in the era of the still-under-the-radar pandemic, the minimum wage standard should apply where employees live and do remote work, not where the company’s headquarters are. For example, the rate in Petaluma and Santa Rosa is $15.85 in 2022. The City of Sonoma rate is set at $16 for large employers and coincides with the state rate for small businesses.

“The (minimum wage) rates apply if the employee works (remotely) more than two hours per week,” Hilario said.

AB 1066: Agricultural worker overtime

One of the most pressing wage laws for the North Bay business community, and especially in wine country, is Assembly Bill 1066, which changes overtime rules for agricultural workers.

The law, written by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, of San Diego, was signed into law in September 2016 by the then government. Jerry Brown. The legislation, also known as the Agricultural Workers Overtime Act of 2016, took three years to take effect to allow companies time to adjust to the new rules.

Workers outside the agricultural industry actually get the standard overtime pay 1½ times over eight hours a day or 40 hours a week, while field farming workers get this bonus after 10 hours a day or 60 hours a week.

But starting Jan. 1, agricultural industry employers with 26 or more workers on their payrolls will be required to pay the surplus over eight hours a day. In addition, the law mandates a double-time rate above 12 hours for each working day.

“This is the big change that’s affecting the business – even though they knew it was coming,” Hilario said.

Employers with 25 or fewer employees must pay overtime after 9½ hours of work. In another three years, on January 1, 2025, these employers will have to pay overtime in excess of eight hours a day, and double time over 12 hours in a working day.

For Max Bell Alper, CEO of North Bay Jobs with Justice, such labor-favoring laws as AB 1066 are part of a larger equation and a worker-supporting movement.

“The truth is that it is time to stop treating farm workers as second-class workers. It is really wrong to still have the traces of racism codified into law,” Bill Alper, referring to the large concentration of people of color working in the agricultural industry, said. Those days are over.”

SB 639: Minimum wage for workers with disabilities

The minimum wage requirement for disabled workers will also change on Jan. 1 under Senate Act 639, introduced by Senator Maria Elena Durazo, D-Democrat of Los Angeles, and signed into law in July.

The law phased out minimum wages for workers with disabilities from January, with no special licenses granted to companies that get those perks to pay less. After three years, the minimum wage will be in effect for all workers.

According to the State Council on Developmental Disabilities, more than 12,000 Californians with disabilities work for less than minimum wage, with some workers with disabilities currently earning less than $2 an hour doing menial work.

SB 606: Cal/OSHA citations for multiple job sites

On the workplace safety front, a new law that takes effect January 1, Senate Act 606, will specifically affect businesses with multiple locations or work sites by expanding Cal/OSHA’s authority to cite companies for violations that occur in the workplace. One place but all company sites apply – even if each site has a different policy. Under the legislation, businesses can object to citations, but if Cal/OSHA prevails, it will have the authority to cite the entire business with penalties north of $134,000 per violation.

On September 27, Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill, which was written by Senator Lena Gonzalez, D. Long Beach.

The California Chamber of Commerce opposed SB 606 because it gives Cal/OSHA broader enforcement power, while labor unions support the legislation, which is expected to significantly affect the construction and manufacturing industries, as well as large retailers.

Extended family leave with withheld wages

Below are other notable pieces of legislation that go into effect on the first day of 2022.

Assembly Bill 1033The legislation includes the care of the spouse’s parents in addition to their parents on the list of eligible grounds for 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the California Family Rights Act.

The bill, written by Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, de San Ramon, was signed into law in September.

Assembly Bill 1003The legislation punishes willful theft of wages, including tips, benefits, or compensation in an amount greater than $950 for one employee or more than $2,350 for two or more employees in a 12-month period in a row as grand theft under California penal code, which prosecutors may charge as misdemeanor or felony.

Under the Penal Code, independent contractors are also considered employees, and entities that employ independent contractors are considered employers.

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