Is your business up-to-date with the new employee wage and safety enforcement laws? These laws are there to protect both your business and your employees from workplace hazards or violations. As such, regardless of the type of business you own or the industry you are in, your business must be compliant.

The new year means new wage and safety revisions and bills to look out for. Let’s dive into the three main employment law updates that went into effect this year.

1. Assembly Bill 1003

Before the passage of Assembly Bill 1003 (AB 1003), existing law defined the crime of grand theft as theft committed when the money, labor, or real or personal property taken is of a value exceeding $950. Under Penal Code Section 487, “grand theft is generally punishable either as a misdemeanor by imprisonment in a county jail for up to 1 year or as a felony by imprisonment in county jail for 16 months or 2 or 3 years.” 

The establishment of AB 1003 makes some changes. It makes the intentional theft of wages, benefits, or compensation punishable as grand theft under the California Penal Code if the violation:

  • Amounts to more than $950 for one employee;
  • Amounts to more than $2,350 for two or more employees; and
  • Occurs in a consecutive 12-month period.

The original consequences of grand theft are still applicable in AB 1003: Prosecutors may charge violators with misdemeanors or felonies when there is an intentional deprivation of waves, gratuities, benefits, or compensation. However, under this new penal code section, “employee” now includes an independent contractor and “employer” includes an independent contractor’s hiring entity.

2. Senate Bill 606

Senate Bill 606 (SB 606) greatly expands Cal/OSHA’s enforcement authority by creating two new violations categories under which Cal/OSHA can issue citations: enterprise-wide violations and egregious violations. 

A violation is considered “enterprise-wide” if the employer has a written policy or procedure that violates certain safety rules in multiple worksites or if Cal/OSHA finds evidence of a pattern or practice. They may impart this type of citation if the employer fails to rebut the presumption. Enterprise-wide citations can carry fines of up to $134,334 per violation. 

A citation for an “egregious violation” is issued if Cal/OSHA believes that an employer has willfully and blatantly violated an “occupational safety or health standard, order, special order or regulation” based on the following criteria:

  • The employer intentionally, either through conscious voluntary action or inaction, made no reasonable effort to eliminate his/her employees,
  • Employees experience worker fatalities, a workplace catastrophe (i.e., hospitalization), or large numbers of injuries or illnesses;
  • Employees experience persistent injuries or illnesses;
  • The employer has a history of prior violations;
  • The employer deliberately disregarded its health and safety responsibilities;
  • The employer’s conduct amounts to bad faith in the performance of their duties; or
  • The employer has performed a large number of violations that diminish the effectiveness of the safety and health programs in place.

SB 606 requires each occasion of an employee exposed to this violation to be considered a separate violation when issuing fines and penalties, which can leave the employer liable to huge costs.

3. Senate Bill 572

Senate Bill 572 (SB 572) deals with the enforcement of wage liens against employers. By adding a provision to the Labor Code, it permits the California Labor Commissioner to create a lien, or security interest, on real property in order to secure amounts due under any final citation, findings, or decision, including those that have become final under Sections 1197.1, 226.5, 1023, and 1289 as an alternate to a judgment lien. It calls for the commissioner to “include specific information on the certificate of lien to be recorded on the relevant party’s real property and to issue a certificate of release once the amount due, including any interest and costs, has been paid.” 

The following changes are in effect:

  • The certificate of lien shall include information as prescribed by Section 27288.1 of the Government Code.
  • “The recorder shall accept and record the certificate of lien and shall index it as prescribed by law.”
  • Upon payment of the amount due, including any interest and costs that have lawfully accrued on the original amount, the Labor Commissioner shall issue a certificate of release. This certificate may be recorded by any person at that person’s expense.
  • “Unless the lien is satisfied or released, a lien under this section shall continue until 10 years from the date of its creation.” The lien may be renewed for additional periods of 10 years by recording a renewal of a certificate of lien or a copy of a renewed judgment at any time prior to its expiration.
  • “The provisions of Section 697.410 of the Code of Civil Procedure shall apply to a lien created under this section as if the lien had been created by a recorded abstract of a money judgment or certified copy of a money judgment.”

Key Takeaways

Non-compliance with any of the old and new wage and safety laws can lead to large fines, penalties, and lawsuits. Employers need to make sure wages are paid and employee safety is at the forefront of their business. 

As more and more businesses reopen in person, employers should stay up-to-date with all the new laws and regulations that are being put into effect. If you need assistance navigating employee wage and hour regulations, please contact Hackler Flynn & Associates.

DISCLAIMER: Content within this post should not be considered legal advice and is for informational purposes only. Communications made through this post do not create an attorney-client relationship. Hackler Flynn & Associates is not responsible for any content that you may access from third-party resources that may be accessed through or linked to this post. Hackler Flynn & Associates is only licensed to practice in California.

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