Employees 1, Employers 0

Governor Newsom signed SB1383 and dramatically changed protected time off as we know it. On January 1, 2021, companies of 5 or more employees will be subject to the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). The CA Chamber of Commerce had declared this a job killer bill and it definitely proves politicians don’t understand the challenges smaller employers face.

CFRA is very similar to FMLA (Federal Medical Leave Act) but includes a few more benefits for the employee than the Federal law. Starting 1/1/2021, the following differences will be in effect:

Affected companies:FMLA = companies with 50+ employees;CFRA = CA companies with 5+ employees. Employee’s employment:Both = employed at least 12 months and worked at least 1,250 hours during that period. Location size:FMLA = 50+ employees within 75 miles;CFRA = 5+ total anywhere. Amount of time off:Both = up to 12 weeks of unpaid, protected time off. Reasons:Both = care for yourself or a family member with a serious health condition, pregnancy, new baby bonding (or foster or adoption), and various military reasons. Family member:FMLA = child (minor or a dependent), spouse, and parent;CFRA = those listed under FMLA plus siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, domestic partners, adult children, and  [click to read more …]

Reluctant Returns

“I finally received my PPP (Payroll Protection Program) funds but I am finding it hard to get employees to return to work. Unemployment is either paying them more than they earned each week with me or at least enough so they’d rather not work for nearly the same money. What can I do?”

Your HR Survival Tip

You’re not alone with this particular dilemma! We have heard the same thing from several clients. Even those companies that don’t have PPP money but are ready to slowly start back up are having similar problems. However, the PPP money requires you to maintain a certain headcount for the funds to be forgiven so you may have to make a hard decision about those employees.

Employees First

Employees are often making more on unemployment right now due to the extra $600 they are getting each week. You could sympathize with their desire to receive more money right now and allow them to stay on unemployment. However, please keep in mind they are turning down work and therefore, legally, are committing fraud by continuing on unemployment… where they are attesting they are “willing and able to work” each week. You might  [click to read more …]

New Bills Proposed

Everyone is focused on the effects of COVID-19 and we thought it was time to give you something else to think about. Life, and California legislators, keep finding ways to challenge business owners. Proposed bills affecting employers this legislative session include:

AB3216 – Currently companies with 50+ employees are subject to the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), which is very much like the federal FMLA with a few exceptions. It provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off with job protection. This bill proposes two things: (1) to change CFRA so companies with 1+ employees are subject to this Act and (2) allow the 12 weeks to be used for diagnosed COVID-19 quarantine for the employee or close family. Bringing CFRA down to such small companies could be devastating unless it’s only for COVID-19 related situations…but it’s not clear.AB2999 – This bill wants employers to provide 10 days of unpaid bereavement leave for employees who have worked at least 60 days prior to the leave. The employee could only use this leave for specific family members and would need to provide written proof of the death. Whether a company provides 1 day or 10, it usually never seems  [click to read more …]

Saving on Payroll Costs

You have several options available to reduce your payroll costs but be sure to remain compliant while making changes. Make sure you provide employees something in writing when making changes and, when possible, provide at least a few days’ notice.

Reduction of Hours

Instead of continuing a full-time schedule, consider cutting back hours.

Reduction of Pay

As long as employees are paid at least minimum wage for time worked, you can cut the hourly rate of an employee with written notice.When cutting hours or pay of a salaried exempt employee, first consider converting their salary to an hourly wage (annual salary / 2080 = hourly wage). This allows you to make changes without worrying about still meeting the state minimum salary. Once hourly, remember they must now complete a timecard and take meal/rest breaks.If they remain salaried exempt, you must pay for the whole week if they work at all that week.Provide as much notice as possible when reducing pay but, in extreme times, a couple of days may be sufficient.

Work Sharing

A common version is, if you have more than one person doing the same work, you might consider having two people share one job. Each person works  [click to read more …]

Answers to Questions

As events are being cancelled and bars, nightclubs, restaurants, gyms, etc. are being closed, everyone is worried about their employees and their business. We are getting a lot of questions on what employers could or should be doing during this national emergency. We’ve tried to provide a few answers for you here:

Your business interruption insurance won’t cover your losses during a pandemic.Your workers’ compensation insurance won’t cover employees who have been exposed because it’s impossible to prove it was a work-related illness.State disability insurance won’t be available to employees unless they have medical certification, which doesn’t appear to be easily available at this time. However, employees can apply if they are diagnosed and have a doctor’s note.Employees cannot decide on their own to stay home from work as a precaution. They can only make that choice if they are truly in imminent danger. However, you can approve an unpaid leave of absence.You may ask for a doctor’s note stating they should stay home and you can ask for a doctor’s note before letting them return to work if they’ve missed any work due to illness.You may send employees home and use sick (if available) or unpaid time off  [click to read more …]

Promises to Be Paid

“I gave a large advance to an employee and we started deducting money from his paychecks to pay it back. However, he just resigned and still owes me $750. What are my options for getting the rest of my money?”

Your HR Survival Tip

Whenever a company “lends” money or provides equipment to an employee, you will always take the chance you won’t get it back. California does not allow you to deduct anything from that final paycheck. Yes, even if they have your phone or laptop or an outstanding loan, the value cannot be deducted without the employee’s express permission (in writing, to be safe).

At a minimum, at the time the money was advanced or loaned, you should have put into writing a repayment schedule and agreement for the employee to sign. You don’t want to start deducting money from an employee’s paycheck for any reason without written authorization (aka proof that it’s a legitimate deduction) from the employee.

Once the employee terminates, all bets are off. Since you can’t deduct the remainder owed from the final paycheck, you either have to hope the employee will send you the money or take them to small claims court.  [click to read more …]

New Somethings from Newsom

California’s Governor Newsom must have writer’s cramp from signing so many bills into law. All the laws below are scheduled to go into effect on January 1st, 2020, unless someone manages to stop or change them. We have:

AB51 Mandatory Arbitration Agreements — The agreements have been seeing some changes but now we won’t be able to require employees to sign one to keep their jobs. Without the ability to force arbitration agreements, companies may see more lawsuits.AB707 Arbitration Fees — Steep ramifications may be seen if the party initiating an arbitration agreement fails to pay the appropriate fees within 30 days.AB5 Independent Contractors — This bill has already been discussed in the last two articles so we won’t waste your time repeating the information.AB749 No-Rehire Provisions — Often settlement agreements include a provision that the company will not rehire that employee. However, this bill prohibits that option so the ex-employee will no longer be automatically prevented from being rehired.AB9 Claims Extended 2 Years — The deadline for filing a complaint with the DFEH (Department of Fair Employment and Housing) has been extended to 3 years from the previous 1-year deadline. The DFEH handles all types of California’s harassment claims.SB142 Lactation Accommodation — We  [click to read more …]

Rigid Policies

“We have new employees who are pushing back on some of our long-term policies. How do I deal with them?”

Your HR Survival Tip

Before dealing with employees who aren’t following your policies, first, stop and think about those policies. Are they outdated? Do they still fit the situation? Can you fully explain the intent of the policy so it makes sense to your employees?

We often see companies continuing a policy without even remembering why they created it…or whether it’s still relevant. Companies change and policy reviews ensure your policies are changing and keeping up with the company.

Example 1: You have a consulting firm and require a retainer when new clients sign up. However, you have now started hiring consultants who are bringing their clients with them to your firm. Many of those clients may not be happy to learn they need to pay you a retainer when they already paid a retainer at your consultant’s old firm. You may want two different policies regarding the treatment of new clients based on how you obtained that client.

Example 2: A new employee has an eligibility period for various benefits. That’s standard. However, what about rehires? Do they  [click to read more …]

Where is Your Proof?

“I have an ex-employee asking to see which days off she had while working for me. She believes I owe her more vacation. What do I have to provide her?”

Your HR Survival Tip

Technology can be our friend or a pain, depending on what you’re using and what you need from it. Payroll processing is much easier now that it’s online and doing those calculations for us. However, we still need our backup.

Everyone seems to love using cell phone apps for timekeeping. They can certainly eliminate a lot of data entry but you also may be losing something. Test yourself: stop right now and pull a detailed report of each employee’s hours and time off for this calendar year.

Was it difficult? Did you even know how to do it? This is one of the problems. You are legally obligated to retain at least 3 years of payroll records. However, do you actually make sure you have those records? When you change payroll companies, there’s a very good chance you let previous payroll history disappear unless you made an effort to pull those reports yourself.

The other problem with the tech is that most of these timekeeping  [click to read more …]

I’m Resigning…Someday

“One of my employees told me she plans to resign and is looking for another job. Can I hire someone now?”

Your HR Survival Tip

While you might feel you can move forward with replacing your employee, you’ll want to wait. You don’t have an actual resignation at this point and she could change her mind…or take months to find another job.

This is the one time when the employee is holding all the cards. And you dropped the ball by not locking down the resignation. Legally, until the employee gives you a resignation date, you’re on hold.

How do you control this situation? Be prepared. Here are a few examples:

Employee: I don’t like working here and I’m going to resign as soon as I find a new job. You: Let’s talk about an actual date so we both can plan for your transition.Employee: I’m so mad, I should just resign! You: I’ll accept your resignation and will consider this your two-week notice.Employee: I’m planning on retiring one of these days. You: Let’s talk about this and set up a schedule so we’re both prepared.

Whenever possible, lock down a resignation date. If you change the date the  [click to read more …]