By Dennis Albiani and Faith Lane Borges
Apart from the spirited farewell speech from former Senator Josh Newman, who was recalled in the primary election last week, the days of vigorous debate and floor fights appear to be over in the deep blue California Legislature. Of the hundreds of bills that reached the Senate and Assembly Floors for the House of Origin deadline on June 1, only 16 bills in total were not passed. Five bills were held in the Senate and 11 in the Assembly.
However, among the handful of bills that were defeated, we are pleased to report that as a part of an employer coalition, FBA advocates were able to stop several bills that would have been horrible for family businesses. Among them was AB 2613 (Reyes) that would have imposed Labor Code penalties for wage statement violations in addition to the penalties already available under the Private Attorney General Act (PAGA), regardless of whether or not the violation was intentional.
Also defeated by the coalition was AB 2946 (Kalra), which would have extended from six months to three years the time a worker would have to allege they have been discharged or otherwise discriminated against and file a complaint with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. Furthermore, the bill would require a one-sided plaintiff attorney’s fee provision that would have incentivized further frivolous litigation against California employers.
These successes build on earlier accomplishments when several bills opposed by FBA were held in committee. Most notably, SB 993 (Hertzberg), which would place a sales tax on services, was held in committee without a vote. FBA Treasurer/Secretary Grant Deary testified in opposition last month. There will be a series of hearings on the bill and the concept of imposing sales taxes on services later in the year.
Additionally, AB 2841 (Gonzalez-Fletcher) would have extended the number of paid sick days employers are required to provide from 3 days to 5 days. Also held on the Suspense File was AB 2069 (Bonta), which would have declared the medical use of cannabis by an employee is subject to “reasonable accommodation.”
Of the bills that did pass through to the second house, a priority bill for FBA to significantly amend or kill is AB 1867 (Reyes), which is set to be heard in the Senate Labor & Industrial Relations Committee in a few days. For employers with more than 50 employees, this bill would more than triple the current requirement for keeping employee personnel documents relating to harassment complaints by extending the retention requirement to 10 years. This will overburden employers who are already inundated with contradictory and confusing retention requirements. Not only is AB 1867 burdensome, but also it is unclear because the term “complaint” is not defined. Is the employer required to document that discussion and retain it for 10 years? Without clarifying language, AB 1867 leaves employers guessing as to what is exactly required of them.
Workforce development has been a priority for FBA and the first half of the session provided several wins. The budget, which will be passed later this week, includes $314 million for Career Technical Education and workforce development. In a major policy shift to make these programs better aligned with industry and career focused, half the funds will be allocated to K-12 education but distributed through the Community Colleges Workforce Development system. The other half will be allocated through the Incentive Grant System at Department of Education.
The remining $14 million will be used to hire and coordinate with industry professionals to better align the instruction statewide. In addition, AB 1743 (O’Donnell) has obtained bipartisan support to reform the Career Technical Education Incentive Grant program. FBA has been integral in both of these actions and will be finalizing their success later this year.