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Next year is the last ….

Next year is the last year there will be a specific increase in the minimum wage, to bring employees of businesses with 25 and fewer employees in-line with everyone else. After that, the minimum wage will automatically increase annually based on inflation, as determined by the national consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers (CPI-W).

For more clarification on the minimum wage increase, the California Department of Industrial Relations provides a helpful FAQ on their website.

In addition to the minimum wage increase, there are new and notable labor laws going into effect in the new year. Starting January 1, 2022, businesses in California are going to need to be aware of changes to the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), settlement agreements, the enforcement powers of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), and civil procedures around arbitration.

AB 1033 by Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan expands CFRA to provide employees with up to twelve weeks of job-protected leave to provide care to a parentin- law with a serious medical condition. The list of relatives an employee can take leave for was previously limited to a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or domestic partner who has a serious health condition. AB 1033 also changes the Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s (DFEH’s) small employer family leave mediation pilot program to apply to employers who have between 5 and 19 employees and requires DFEH to notify the employee in writing of the requirement to mediate prior to filing a civil action.

SB 331 by Senator Connie Leyva extends the law that settlement agreements cannot prohibit the disclosure of factual information that involves all acts of workplace harassment or discrimination, not just those based on sex. Additionally, an employer cannot require an employee to sign a nondisparagement agreement or other document to the extent it has the purpose or effect of denying the employee the right to disclose information about those acts. Settlement agreements can still include confidentiality as it relates to the settlement amount.

SB 606 by Senator Lena Gonzalez expands Cal/OSHA’s enforcement powers to (1) enhance Cal/OSHA compliance and enforcement tools, including its ability to issue injunctions, subpoenas, and temporary restraining orders against employers; and (2) expands and modifies penalties for noncompliant employers by establishing a rebuttable presumption that a violation is occurring “enterprisewide” under certain circumstances. Cal/OSHA may assess a penalty for each egregious violation of up to $134,334 and is required to assess separate violations for each instance of employee exposure to an egregious violation.

SB 762 by Senator Bob Wieckowski requires an arbitration provider to “immediately provide an invoice” for both the arbitration initiation fees and the arbitration hearing fees once the requirements necessary to initiate the arbitration have been met. This is problematic as most businesses will not want to pay the costs of the entire employment arbitration at the outset as the costs of an entire arbitration can be quite significant and can include arbitrator fees of thousands of dollars for each day of the arbitration hearing.

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