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“3 Additional Important California Employment Law Changes in 2020”

Contra Costa County Bar Association By: James Wu, Guest Editor (March 2020 Edition)

While our feature articles have taken a closer look at many of the new and complex issues facing California workplaces, there are other noteworthy updates in 2020, including the following:

  1. Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act – The “CROWN Act”
    SB 188 amends the definition of “race” under FEHA to include “traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.” Protective hairstyles includes “such hairstyles as braids, locks and twists.” Importantly, policies and procedures regarding health and safety related to hair styles, use of hairnets, helmets, etc. can still be enforced regardless of hairstyle.As a result, employers may wish to update Employee Handbook provisions regarding “race” discrimination and harassment and review, “safety,” “grooming” and “dress code” policies.
  2. Under prior law, the statute of limitations to bring FEHA discrimination, harassment or retaliation claims to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) was one year. AB 9 triples the statute of limitations period to three years. Former Governor Brown vetoed a similar bill recognizing the value of timely resolving disputes, and the potential loss of evidence and witnesses when claims are not timely prosecuted. Governor Newsom, however, disagreed and thus, litigants may be subjected to dealing with staled claims, and will likely face fading witness memories and potential lost documentation. This is particularly true because a plaintiff still has the additional one year (for a total of four years) to bring a DFEH claim to court after receiving a Notice of Right to Sue from the DFEH.
  3. Expanded Organ Donor Leave –
    Under prior law, employers with 15 or more employees were required to provide eligible employees with five days of paid leave for bone marrow donation, and 30 days of paid leave for organ donation. Starting in 2020, AB 1223, expands leave for organ donation. Specifically, employers are now required to provide a maximum of 30 business days of unpaid leave in addition to the original 30 days of paid leave in a single year.

As a result, employers should update Employee Handbook provisions regarding organ donation leave, as well as any other notices or documents the employer provides regarding organ donation leave.

A bonus additional important change for California’s workplaces will be highlighted in our April 2020 issue of the Contra Costa Lawyer – stay tuned for more!

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