I’ll admit it. I was wrong.
All those times that I joked about California being the “New Jersey of the West” when it comes to employment law. And when I said that New York City or Virginia or some other state or locality was becoming the people’s champ.
I was wrong.
I’m not sure that anyone can out-“California” this — something the what the CA Chamber of Commerce has referred to as a “job killer.”
The bill, SB 1044 (Durazo; D-Los Angeles), allows employees to leave work or refuse to show up to work if the employee subjectively feels unsafe regardless of existing health and safety standards or whether the employer has provided health and safety protections, and subjects employers to costly Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) lawsuits if they dispute the employee’s decision or need to have another employee take over any job duties.
Now, to be fair, this can only happen during a “state of emergency.” But you know what is still considered a state of emergency in CA? COVID-19. Perhaps back in 2020, or when Delta/Omicron spiked, but now?!?
So, employees can miss work if they feel unsafe about anything relating to COVID-19 (e.g., not everyone is vaccinated, or some people refuse to wear masks). All they need to do is notify their employer “when feasible.” No employees would take advantage of this — especially not on Fridays or Mondays. 🤦
Plus, as the CA Chamber of Commerce notes, the bill “contains no exceptions for essential services, such as health care workers, police or firefighters and would allow emergency response personnel to walk off the job, endangering public safety.”
And since an employee’s feelings about safety are entirely subjective, there’s little, if anything, an employer can do about it. Otherwise, you may end up in court.
I’m not licensed to practice law in California, but if this bill becomes law, I may sit for the bar there because there’s a gold mine in legal fees awaiting attorneys on both sides of the “v.”
Until then, I’ll soldier on in New Jersey, the “California of the East.”