Effective January 1, 2021, California’s minimum wage rate increased to $14.00 per hour (from $13.00) for employers with 26 or more employees and $13.00 per hour (from $12.00) for employers with 25 or fewer employees. The minimum wage will continue to increase yearly until it reaches $15.00 per hour on January 1, 2022 for employers with 26 or more employees and January 1, 2023 for employers with 25 or fewer employees.

In California, many cities and counties are increasing their minimum wages faster than the state. Click here for a chart of increases set to take place in 2021.

Also note that effective January 1, 2021, the minimum salary threshold for exempt executive, administrative, and professional employees is as follows:

  • $58,240 per year (or $1,120 per week) for employers of 26 or more employees
  • $54,080 per year (or $1,040 per week) for employers of 25 or fewer employees

Further, in order to maintain their exempt status, commissioned inside salespeople will need to earn more than $21 per hour (for employers of 26 of more employees) or $19.50 per hour (for employers of 25 or fewer employees).

The FDA’s rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations has given hope to many employers that we may finally be witnessing the horizon of the pandemic. But this good news comes with a few side-effects, including the question of whether employers can require, or even encourage, their employees to get vaccinated.

To that end, on December 16, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance regarding the COVID-19 vaccinations in the workplace and the interplay with other employment laws.

Most significantly, the EEOC guidance makes clear that employers are legally allowed to mandate vaccines before employees are permitted to return to work, provided the employer makes accommodations for employees with certain disabilities and sincerely held religious beliefs.

Medical Accommodation Under Mandatory Vaccination Policy:

The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) permits employers to have an employment qualification standard that includes “a requirement that an individual shall not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of individuals in the workplace.” However, if such a standard tends to screen out individuals with a disability—something mandatory vaccination could do—then the employer must show that the unvaccinated employee would pose a substantial risk of harm to others that cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation. To make this determination, employers should conduct an individualized assessment of four factors: (1) the duration of the risk; (2) the nature of the severity of the potential harm; (3) the likelihood that the potential harm will occur; and (4) the imminence of the potential harm.

The EEOC indicated that a “direct threat” would include an unvaccinated employee who exposes other employees to the COVID-19 virus. If such an employee cannot be vaccinated due to a disability, the employer can exclude the employee from the workplace if there is no way to provide a reasonable accommodation (absent undue hardship) that would eliminate or reduce the risk caused by the unvaccinated employee.

If the threat caused by the employee cannot be reduced to an acceptable level, the employer can exclude the employee from physically entering the workplace. However, all other federal, state and local EEO laws and employee rights will need to be taken into account before such an employee can be automatically terminated. This may include providing telework, and if no such work is available, to continue to provide those eligible with leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act or other employer policies.

Employers must also engage in the interactive process to explore available accommodations. The EEOC made clear that the prevalence in the workplace of employees who already have received a COVID-19 vaccination and the amount of contact with others, whose vaccination status could be unknown, may impact the undue hardship consideration. Employers may rely on CDC recommendations when deciding whether an effective accommodation that would not pose an undue hardship is available. Continue Reading Mandatory Vaccines in the Workplace? New EEOC Guidance Regarding What Employers Can Do

On December 14, 2020, Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-84-20 which, among other things, modified CalOSHA’s emergency COVID-19 regulations.

Background.

On November 30, 2020, CalOSHA’s emergency temporary regulations concerning COVID-19 prevention in places of employment (ETS) went into effect.  Among other requirements, the ETS directed employers to exclude from the workplace for 14 days those employees who have been exposed to COVID-19, reflecting the then-current guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on quarantining after being exposed to COVID-19. Continue Reading Newsom Signs Executive Order Modifying CalOSHA’s Emergency Temporary COVID-19 Regulations

Sacramento Bee reporter Darrell Smith spoke with labor and employment attorney Lukas Clary for his article on the coming COVID vaccines and whether employers might require their workers to get vaccinated.

With a look at past precedent — H1N1 — we can conclude that an employer will be able to require a vaccination as a condition of employment,” said Lukas Clary, an employment law attorney at Sacramento firm Weintraub Tobin.

But, Clary added, the issue isn’t that straightforward. If the workers are represented by a union, a COVID-19 vaccination program may have to be negotiated with the employees’ bargaining unit. Employers must also consider an employee’s religious beliefs that preclude them from being vaccinated or a medical reason for not taking a vaccine. Liability is also a concern, Clary said. Even if businesses are able to require vaccinations, “It may not be what they want to do,” Clary said. “If someone had an adverse reaction (to the vaccine), it could trigger a workers’ compensation claim.

Clary’s advice: “Encourage but stop short of requiring it. That may be the safe approach for now.

Read the full article here.

Weintraub Tobin’s 2021 Labor and Employment Virtual Seminar and Training schedule is now available. Click here for a copy of the schedule.
If you have any questions on any of our seminars or would like to inquire on private, custom-tailored training, please contact: 
Ramona Carrillo 
(916) 558-6046.