6. Return of the individual mandate

A new law brings back the individual mandate requiring Californians at least to secure health insurance coverage or face tax penalties. This comes after the penalties for not abiding by the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate were abolished by Congress in late 2017.

Starting in 2020, California residents will be required to have health insurance or pay excess taxes.

This will have an effect on any of your employees who have opted out of your group health plan as it may mean they are going without coverage, unless they have opted to be covered by their spouse’s plan.

If you have staff who didn’t enroll in your plan for 2020, they may have to wait until your group’s next open enrollment at the end of the year. That could force them to pay tax penalties, depending on how long they are without coverage in 2020.

7. New audit, X-Mod thresholds

The threshold for physical workers’ compensation audits for policies incepting on or after Jan. 1, 2020 will be $10,500 in annual premium, a drop from $13,000. This means that any employer with an annual workers’ comp premium of $10,500 or more will be subject to a physical audit at least once a year.

On top of that, the threshold for experience rating (to have an X-Mod) has also fallen ― to $9,700 in annual premium as of Jan. 1, from $10,000.

8. Harassment training deadline pushed back for some employers

As you should already be aware, any employer with five or more workers is required to conduct sexual harassment prevention training for their staff by the end of 2019 under a California law passed in 2018.

Due to concerns that many employers in the state may not be ready to comply, a new law extends the compliance deadline for some employers.

Under SB 778, all employees, both supervisory and non-supervisory, must be trained by Jan. 1, 2021, which extends the deadline by a year.

The original law, SB 1343, required all employers with five or more staff to conduct sexual harassment prevention training to their employees before Jan. 1, 2020 ― and every two years after that.

Here are the new rules:

  • If you trained your staff in 2019, you aren’t required to provide refresher training until two years from the time the employee was trained.
  • If you trained your employees in 2018, you can maintain the two-year cycle and still comply with the new January 1, 2021 deadline. For example, if you trained your staff in November 2018, you would not have to train them again until November 2020.
  • If you trained supervisors in 2017 under prior law, known as AB 1825, you should train those employees this year in order to maintain your two-year cycle.

9. Hairstyle discrimination

A new law makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees and job applicants based on their hairstyle if it is part of their racial makeup.

The CROWN Act (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair), amends the state Education and Government Code to define race or ethnicity as “inclusive of traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to hair texture and protective hairstyles like braids, locks and twists.”

This broader definition of race means that natural hair traits fall under the context of racial discrimination in housing, employment and school matters.

10. Reporting serious injuries

A new law broadens the scope of what will be classified as a serious illness or injury which regulations require employers to report to Cal/OSHA “immediately.”

The new rules being implemented by AB 1805 are designed to bring California’s rules more in line with Federal OSHA’s regulations for reporting. It will mean that some injuries that were not reportable before will be, such as:

  • Any inpatient hospitalization for treatment of a workplace injury or illness will need to be reported to Cal/OSHA.
  • For reporting purposes, an inpatient hospitalization must be required for something “other than medical observation or diagnostic testing.”
  • Employers will need to report any “amputation” to Cal/OSHA. This replaces the terminology “loss of member.” Even if the tip of a finger is cut off, it’s considered an amputation.

As of yet, there is no effective date for this new law, as enabling regulations have to be written ― a process that will start in 2020.

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