2019 was a big year for HR departments. Workplace norms are changing and there were a number of new laws enacted that employers should be paying attention to. Legislators ramped up harassment training requirements, limited independent contractor classification characteristics, and extended family medical leave. At this rate, it’s safe to say we can see a number of new, similar regulations coming into play in 2020, are you prepared for the new decade?
This past Tuesday, December 17th, Emtrain’s Founder and CEO Janine Yancey sat down with Executive VP at California Chamber of Commerce, Erika Frank, for another episode of our bi-weekly, live web series, Always Learning. The two employment law experts wrapped up some of the new regulations from 2019 and discussed a few of their predictions for 2020. If you missed it, that’s okay! You can check it out here.
Here’s what you missed…
We know that laws are lagging indicators of social change. In the past, it’s been typical to see a wave of social and economic issues come to the foreground of the conversation, and have any number of new, relevant policy initiatives follow. Well the times, they are changing…policymakers are following suit as best they can.
The 21st century could be characterized by the advent and revolution of identity politics. The #MeToo movement has made a lot of people rethink how they treat women, and has made a lot of women redefine their definition of a desirable workplace. The #blacklivesmatter movement has had a similar effect on people of color. Increasing LGBT visibility has spurred new legislation around gendered restrooms. People are rethinking when, where, and how they want to do their jobs. Here are just a few of the policy reactions we’ve seen in 2019:
- #MeToo motivations: A number of states including California, New York, and Illinois ramped up training requirements so that employers are now required to train all employees on harassment and discrimination and much more frequently. And in California, AB 52 is expected to preclude the use of mandatory arbitration agreements for claims of harassment and other issues under the CA Labor Code.
- The rise of the gig economy: In response to claims against employers fraudulently classifying workers as independent contractors, AB 5 limits the ability of employers to make such classification. This bill goes into effect in January 2020.
- Addressing Bias: In 2018 we saw a dramatic response to Starbucks’ employees asking customers of color to leave the premises; this really kick-started the conversation about inherent and unconscious bias. This past year, we saw AB 241 which required that healthcare professionals, judges, and law enforcement officials all receive unconscious bias training. We also saw SB 188, or the Crown Act, which added natural hairstyles to the list of protected characteristics. This was in response to increasing frustration towards some employers Eurocentric definition of “professional appearance,” which did not include afros and corn-rows
- More medical leave: SB 83 extended paid family medical leave from 6 weeks to 8 weeks.
- Privacy please: Last year Cambridge Analytica rocked the boat with their scandal around privacy and they buying and selling of personal data. The California Consumer Privacy Act has been passed and goes into effect in January. There are no regulations yes but it is expected to increase protections and enhance privacy rights for residents of California.
That may seem like a lot to unpack, but we can expect to see a lot more legislation revolving around the workplace and these issues in particular.
- #MeToo motivations: CalChamber has challenged the new law making arbitration agreements unenforceable, a law that is preempted by the federal arbitration act. AB 9 extend time to file a harassment or discrimination claim to 3 years instead of 1. We might see a loosening up of the standard for “severe and pervasive” conduct; which are the indicators of a hostile work environment. Under AB 171, one’s status as a sexual harassment victim becomes a protected characteristic. Thus employers cannot discriminate or retaliate against someone due to their status as a sexual harassment victim.
- The rise of the gig economy: We can expect a slurry of exemptions that will allow businesses to classify some workers as independent contractors. The current law is over-broad and has some damaging effects on both workers and businesses.
- Addressing Bias: We will probably see more mandates for employers to provide unconscious bias training on a regular basis to more types of employees, not just managers. SB 142 intends to support nursing mothers; it identifies an employer’s duty to provide lactation rooms for employees who need it.
- More medical leave: Governor Newsom is reviewing a proposal to allow 6 months off for medical and paternity leave and time intended to allow workers to bond with their newborns.
- Privacy please: We are in desperate need of legislation that will address instances of harm to our privacy rights and consequential data breaches.
Well that just about sums up what you missed from December 17th’s episode of #AlwaysLearning. You can read more about these issues and a number of others at CalChamber’s website. And don’t forget to follow Emtrain on LinkedIn to receive notifications when Emtrain goes live with #AlwaysLearning.