The ongoing public health crisis has reshaped the economy of the United States in many ways, especially when it comes to how Americans perform their job duties. Many people have been working from home over the past two years, and the number of people working from home has increased dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Every state has implemented new laws recently that reflect this new reality, and California is no exception. If you work in California, it’s essential to know the new labor laws that went into effect on January 1, 2022, especially those that pertain to working from home.
If you believe that your employer has violated applicable employment laws at the federal or state level, it’s vital to consult an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Many employers in every industry have been compelled to implement sweeping changes to their workplace policies, and this has unfortunately caused many employees to experience a wide range of challenges for the past two years. As 2022 begins, all employees must understand their rights and how the most recent employment laws affect their employment.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently approved SB 114, which takes effect on February 19, 2022, and applies retroactively through January 1, 2022. This new measure expands access to California paid sick leave for those affected by COVID-19:
It is important to note that many remote workers can typically manage self-isolation and quarantine while working remotely and continuing their job duties. However, if symptoms prevent them from performing job duties or a family member is ill, they can still qualify for paid sick leave under this new law. The new law does impose limits, specifically a 40-hour limit when an employee tests positive for COVID-19 and an additional 40-hour limit that pertains to compliance with isolation or quarantine orders or caring for family members.
The new law also includes different provisions for several types of employees. For example, full-time employees can generally qualify for more paid sick leave than part-time employees. It is crucial for employees to fully understand how their employment arrangement qualifies for paid sick leave under this new law. Unfortunately, some employers mischaracterize employees to avoid the need to provide paid sick leave, avoid having to pay them appropriately, and withhold other benefits reserved for full-time employees.
While paid sick leave can be beneficial to employees who only need a few days off for covered reasons, all employees in California have the right to take unpaid leave when medical emergencies arise. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows employees (who work for employers who have 50 or more employees) to take unpaid leave to address their own medical conditions or care for family members diagnosed with severe health conditions, and their employers must keep their positions open for when they return to work.
In addition to expanded access to paid sick leave in California, new laws for 2022 also pertain to state minimum wage and access to required notices from employers. As of January 1, 2022, the state minimum wage in California is $15 per hour and $14 per hour for employers with fewer than 25 employees. Employers must comply with the new minimum wage increase for employees who work from home as well as those who work on site. If you believe your employer has failed to pay you your legally required state minimum wage, it is vital to consult an attorney to discuss your wage and hour dispute.
SB 657 now allows employers to send required postings to employees via email. Many employers must have specific postings clearly displayed in their workplaces, and this new law allows employers to email these postings to employees who work remotely. This new law ensures that all employees, including those who work from home, will have easy access to the information included in all required notices.
Q: How Do the New Laws Affect Those Who Work From Home?
A: In most cases, employers have the same legal obligations to employees who work from home as they do to employees who work on site. If you believe that your employer has violated any applicable law related to your employment and used your work-from-home status as justification, it is vital to consult an attorney to determine the best way to address the issue.
Q: Can My Employer Force Me to Return to the Office?
A: Employers allowed work-from-home in response to the public health crisis, and many employers have started reverting to on-site work expectations. If your employer requires you to return to the office, you will likely need to comply with this. However, if you believe that working from home would be a reasonable accommodation for a medical condition or disability, your employer should be willing to negotiate a solution with you.
Q: Can Non-exempt Employees Work From Home in California?
A: “Exempt” and “non-exempt” are designations that apply to full-time employee rights and benefits in California, specifically when it comes to the right to receive overtime pay. It is legal for employees to work from home in California, and the terms of their employment may indicate exempt or non-exempt status. If an employee works from home and qualifies as non-exempt, they must be paid overtime rates when the time they spend working constitutes overtime.
Q: What Should I Do If My Employer Violates New Labor Laws?
A: Navigating the labor laws of California can be confusing. If you believe your employer has mischaracterized your exemption status, failed to pay you appropriately under the new minimum wage law, or has illegally interfered with your ability to claim paid sick leave under the new SB 114 provisions, it’s vital to consult an employment law attorney as soon as possible.
Clark Employment Law, APC, has years of experience representing clients in a wide range of employment law cases in California. If you believe your employer has violated your rights, discriminated against you, or illegally taken advantage of your work-from-home status, we can help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our team.