Last week Cal/OSHA updated the agency Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on its COVID Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS). The FAQs address all components of the Emergency Temporary Standards. Although we would encourage employers to review all the FAQs carefully, these FAQs provided some clarity in the fog that we have seen in the past weeks:

With a New Year comes a new minimum wage in California. Effective January 1, 2021, California’s minimum wage increased to $14.00/hour for employers with 26 or more employees. Minimum wage for employers with 25 or fewer employees increased to $13.00/hour. As a reminder, the minimum wage will increase through 2022:

On November 30, 2020, a representative of Five Star Quality Care Inc., a California nursing home, asked a federal judge to approve a $3,062,000 proposed settlement that would put an end to her Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) claim. The PAGA claim included alleged violations of unpaid overtime, failure to provide employees with proper rest breaks, failure to provide proper wage statements, and deduction of expenses without reimbursement.

The Ninth Circuit affirmed a $54.6 million jury verdict for truck drivers who said Walmart violated California wage and hour laws including failure to pay minimum wage for layovers, rest breaks and inspections as a matter of law. The majority of the damages awarded in this case rested on whether Walmart exercised control over its employees’ off duty time, a significant question that has been litigated in several contexts in recent years. This case is another reminder that employers who exercise even minimum control over employees during off duty hours could face hefty awards from a jury for unpaid wages. In the present case, the Court held that Walmart exercised enough control over truck drivers during their off duty periods that it was tantamount to working hours. Ridgeway v. Walmart Inc., DBA Wal-Mart Transportation LLC. (2020).

Last week, the Washington State Supreme Court rung the proverbial cow bell for new overtime claims in ag and provided a framework for future wage and hour lawsuits around the nation. In Martinez-Cuevas v. DeRuyter Brothers Dairy Inc., Washington dairy workers filed a wage and hour lawsuit, alleging among other things that they were not properly compensated for overtime. Here’s the ringer – Washington state law previously exempted dairy workers from state overtime pay. The Washington State Supreme Court found that the overtime exemption for dairy undermined a fundamental state constitutional right to protect the health and safety of all workers in “dangerous jobs.” Based on a previous decision in which the Court found that “dangerous jobs” incorporates agricultural occupations, the overtime exemption is not constitutional.

With the New Year right around the corner, agricultural employers must review and update their overtime policies yet again to comply with Assembly Bill 1066. The timetable created by Assembly Bill 1066 back in 2016 will continue to be felt in the agricultural community until 2025. If you recall, the new law passed gradual change to overtime rules in order to align California Wage Order 14 overtime to be paid on the same basis as most other industries.

The changes are a phase-in schedule that require employers with 26 or more employees to pay overtime, effective January 01, 2020, after nine hours of work. The schedule for changes can be found here. Small employers with 25 or less employees can still pay straight wages for workdays that are 10 hours or less, or workweeks that are 60 hours or less. As a reminder, these small employers with 25 or less employees will be effected beginning January 01, 2022, at which point they will be required to pay overtime for workdays greater than 9.5 or workweeks over 55 hours.

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