California Enacts New Labor Laws

California Gov. Gavin Newsom in October signed new employment-related bills into law, including a ban on forced arbitration and more time for sexual harassment and discrimination victims to file complaints.

Arbitration. Assembly Bill 51 prohibits employers from requiring applicants for employment or existing employees, as a condition of employment, continued employment, or the receipt of any employmentrelated benefit, to waive any right, forum, or procedure for a violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act or other specific statutes governing employment.

The bill also prohibits an employer from threatening, retaliating or discriminating against, or terminating any applicant for employment or any employee because of the refusal to consent to the waiver of any right, forum, or procedure for a violation of specific statutes governing employment.

The bill would establish a specific exemption from those prohibitions. Because a violation of these prohibitions would be a crime, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.

Last year, the US Supreme Court upheld clauses in employment contracts that require workers to bring disputes via individual arbitration, rather than through other methods such as class-action lawsuits in the court.

Sexual harassment and discrimination. AB 9 extends to three years from one year the time a person claiming sexual harassment or discrimination has to file a verified complaint.

 New York Eyes IC Classification

New York Sen. Diane Savino plans to introduce updated legislation that would extend protections such as unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation benefits, and minimum wage and overtime pay requirements to a new class of “dependent workers.” But a coalition of advocates already is pushing lawmakers to go further, adopting something similar to a new California law designed to force gig and a wide range of other businesses to reclassify independent contractors as employees.

The legislative push comes as Uber, Lyft, and other gig companies are under fire for their business model, treating workers connected to customers through online platforms as self-employed entrepreneurs.

Those workers aren’t covered by a spectrum of employment laws and are on the hook for payroll taxes usually picked up by employers.

Calls for Action Following Temp Death

Union leaders in Ontario wrote an open letter to Doug Ford, the premier of Ontario, calling for him to sign the “Workplace Safety and Insurance Act” in the wake of a contingent worker’s death at Fiera Foods in Toronto.

“As you know, on Wednesday, September 25, Enrico Miranda, a father of two, was killed on the job. As you also know, Mr. Miranda is the fifth temporary agency worker who has died on the job at Fiera Foods or an affiliated company,” according to the letter.

It continued, “Shockingly, it has been almost two weeks since his death and yet we have heard nothing from you. You have chosen to remain silent, despite having the power to implement legislation that could have prevented this tragedy.”

The law would make companies using temporary staffing firms financially responsible under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act for workplace deaths and injuries, according to the letter.