California

The Year of Dynamex: Navigating California’s Assembly Bill 5

On September 18, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill 5 (A.B. 5). A.B. 5 relates to whether workers are employees or independent contractors. With this bill the California Legislature codified the ABC test set forth by the California Supreme Court’s decision in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, 4 Cal. 5th 903 (2018) and expanded its applicability. It expands the ABC test for independent contractor vs. employee classification to the California Labor Code and the California Unemployment Insurance Code.

A.B. 5 adds section 2750.3 and amends section 3351 to the California Labor Code and amends sections 605.5 and 621 to the California Unemployment Insurance Code.

Dynamex and the ABC test

For the last 30 years, California courts have addressed independent contractor v. employee classification using the test set forth in S.G. Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Department of Industrial Relations, 48 Cal. 3d 341 (1989). Under the Borello test, determining whether a worker was an employee or an independent contractor hinged on a number of factors and primarily focused on the alleged employer’s control over the manner and means by which the work is performed. On April 30, 2018, the California Supreme Court decided Dynamex, announcing a significant departure from the Borello test. The Dynamex decision adopted the so-called 3-part “ABC” test for determining whether an individual is considered an independent contractor or an employee under the wage orders, which govern many aspects of wages and working conditions in covered industries. Under the new 3-part ABC test, a worker is properly considered an independent contractor to whom a wage order does not apply only where the hirer establishes:

  1. The worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work;
  2. The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and
  3. The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business.

For more background information on the Dynamex decision, please see our May 9, 2018 blog post.

A.B. 5

A.B. 5 codifies and expands the Dynamex 3-part ABC test, making it apply not only to claims arising out of the wage orders, but also apply to the California Labor Code and Unemployment Insurance Code. The new law also includes a provision that empowers the California Attorney General and city attorneys of cities with populations greater than 750,000 to seek injunctive relief to prevent the continued misclassification of employees as independent contractors. See California Labor Code section 2750.3(j).

In passing the bill, the legislature stated that it intended “to ensure workers who are currently exploited by being misclassified as independent contractors instead of recognized as employees have the basic rights and protections they deserve under the law, including a minimum wage, workers’ compensation if they are injured on the job, unemployment insurance, paid sick leave, and paid family leave.” The legislature further stated that “by codifying the California Supreme Court’s landmark, unanimous Dynamex decision, this act restores these important protections to potentially several million workers who have been denied these basic workplace rights that all employees are entitled to under the law.”

A.B. 5 includes carveout exemptions from the ABC test for various occupations and business relationships (such as lawyers, veterinarians, commercial fishermen, investment advisors, licensed private investigators and specified professional services providers) if the hiring entity can prove the specific requirements for exemption are met. See Cal. Lab. Code section 2750.3 (b)-(h). If the exemption applies, the Borello test governs the worker classification issue.

The application of the ABC test to the California Labor Code and Unemployment Insurance Code takes effect on January 1, 2020, with the applicability to workers’ compensation going into effect on July 1, 2020.

Next Steps

Under A.B. 5, the number of individuals who are considered employees in California for purposes of the wage orders, California Labor Code, and Unemployment Insurance Code will almost certainly increase. Now is the time to review your company’s practices related to independent contractors and talk to counsel for advice. We will continue to monitor any developments and are here to help.

It’s Heating Up: Several California Cities Prepare For Mid-Summer Minimum Wage Increases

We are halfway through 2019, and while many employees prepare for summer vacation, California employers in various cities should brace themselves for an additional round of minimum wage increases on July 1, 2019.

Another raise, already?

As you may recall, on January 1, 2019, California raised the statewide minimum wage rate to $12.00 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees, and $11.00 per hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees. And the California minimum wage is set to increase to $15.00 per hour for all employers by January 2023. READ MORE

Money for Nothing? On-Call Checks For Free: California Court Says Employers Must Pay Employees For Certain On-Call Scheduling Requirements, Even If Employees Are Not Called Into Work

A California Court of Appeal recently issued an order in Ward v. Tilly’s, Inc. finding that certain on-call scheduling practices trigger “reporting time pay” requirements even when the employee does not actually come into the work site. READ MORE

Now We’ve Got Your Attention: Recent Amendments to SF Fair Chance Ordinance Give Job Applicants Right to Sue and Send Penalties Soaring

San Francisco recently added significant teeth to its “Fair Chance” ordinance, which is designed to give applicants who have criminal histories a chance to get their foot in the door without being automatically disqualified.

This is the next step in the “ban the box” movement, for which several cities, counties and states have passed laws restricting employers from inquiring about a job applicant’s criminal background. The term “ban the box” refers to questions on an employment application that ask a job applicant about past convictions. Proponents of “ban the box” laws argue they will help remove unfair employment barriers to job applicants with criminal histories.

In California, San Francisco and Los Angeles have instituted “Fair Chance” ordinances that require employers to state on their job postings that an arrest or conviction will not automatically disqualify a qualified application from consideration from employment. Recent amendments to the San Francisco Fair Chance Ordinance went into effect on October 1, 2018. These amendments:

  • Expand the scope of the law to cover any employer with 5 or more employees. Previously, the law covered employers with 20 or more employees.
  • Prohibit employers from inquiring about a person’s criminal history until after a conditional offer of employment has been made.
  • Prohibit employers from considering any convictions for decriminalized behavior (e.g., marijuana related convictions). Previously, the law had allowed such inquiries for convictions that were seven years old or less.
  • Increase penalties for non-compliance from a per-violation maximum of $100 to $2,000.
  • Direct that penalties must be paid directly to affected employees. Penalties were previously paid to the City.
  • Creates a new private right of action for any employee or applicant whose rights have been violated. Previously only the City Attorney could sue to enforce the law.
  • Requires that covered employers display a new poster in the workplaces as of October 1, 2018.

In addition to fair chance ordinances like San Francisco’s, California employers must also be mindful of other recent legislation that will have an impact on the hiring process, including state-wide legislation enacted in July 2018 that prohibits employers from inquiring into the salary history of their applicants. More on that here.

As always, employers are well advised to reach out to Orrick counsel for assistance navigating this complex area of law.

California Court Rejects “ABC” Test For Joint Employers

As has been widely reported, last month the California Supreme Court issued a decision in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles that rejected the long-standing, multi-factor test to determine whether a worker is an employee. The Dynamex decision established a three-factor “ABC” test that, on its face, places the entire burden of showing that a worker is not an employee squarely upon the hiring party. The ABC test asks whether:

  1. The worker is free from the direction and control of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of such work and in fact;
  2. The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and
  3. The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity.

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California’s Tightened Regulations on Considering Criminal History in Employment Decisions Take Effect July 1, 2017

Last year, the California Fair Employment and Housing Council proposed new regulations on an employer’s consideration of criminal history in making employment decisions. Those regulations were approved this year by the Office of Administrative Law after a period of public comment and are due to become effective on July 1.

New Clarification on Adverse Impact Claims READ MORE

Not Providing Compliant Rest Breaks in California Could Break the Bank – New Clarifications from the State’s High Court

Recently, in Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc., the California Supreme Court upheld a $90 million award of statutory damages, interest, and penalties against an employer who required employees to remain on-call during rest periods, despite no evidence showing that any employee’s rest period was ever actually interrupted.  This holding has significant implications statewide, and employers in California should promptly review their rest break policies to ensure full compliance.  READ MORE

It’s All Relative: A California Court Says Employers Must Accommodate Employees “Associated” With a Person With a Disability

In an issue of first impression, the California Court of Appeals held that employers have a duty under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to provide reasonable accommodations to an applicant or employee who is associated with a disabled person, even if the employee is not disabled.  Castro-Ramirez v. Dependable Highway Express, Inc. No. B261165, 2016 Cal. App. LEXIS 255 (Cal. Ct. App. April 4, 2016).  This holding confirms that FEHA provides broader protections for employees associated with a disabled person than the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which does not contain the same requirement.

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California DLSE Posts FAQs on New Fair Pay Law but Leaves Tough Questions Unanswered

Three months after the California Fair Pay Act took effect on January 1, 2016, the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (“DLSE”) has issued answers to FAQs about the new law, which by all counts is the most employee-friendly equal pay law in the nation.  But for California employers who anxiously have been awaiting official guidance on the Act’s many new terms and standards, the FAQs provide little satisfaction.  Rather, they focus more on informing employees on how to bring a claim.  Nor has the DLSE otherwise spoken publicly about how it plans to enforce the new law; instead, the agency appears to be taking its time and exercising caution as it potentially sets the stage for the rest of the nation.

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California Bill Seeks to Enable Independent Contractors in the “Gig Economy” to Organize, Bargain, and Strike

In what could prove a harbinger of worker classification developments to come, Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez (D – San Diego) has proposed AB 1727, “The California 1099 Self-Organizing Act.” The bill, which is at the earliest stages of the legislative process, would provide an avenue for certain workers classified as independent contractors to engage in “group activities” including organizing, bargaining, and striking. At bottom, the legislation would give certain independent contractors the ability to collectively confront those with whom they contract.

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