Margaret A.M. Heine

is the principal counsel at Heine Law Group in Fullerton, California. She is licensed in California and Washington and has authority to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States and the United States Court of International Trade.

Her practice includes estate planning, wills, trusts, and probate as well as business, real estate, and civil litigation. Email: nbylegas@gmail.com or visit company website www.margaretamheine.com.


The celebration of the new year brings the hope of a better year ahead.  As with everything, out with the old and in with the new. The law changes this year are certainly going to raise a few eyebrows.

On the employment front, the most talked about change are the changes which will result from AB-5, the reclassification of contract workers into employees.  This is a widely debated change, and not all employers have yet figured out how to implement this new business model or even if they will.  AB-5 essentially makes almost all contract workers, employees.  This applies to Uber, Lyft, Truck Drivers, temporary workers, and many others.

Essentially, if you are employed by a company and perform a task that is the company’s main business, you are an employee, not an independent contractor.  So examples would be: truck drivers who used to be paid by the load or the haul (because the company who uses them is in the business of hauling freight); Uber and Lyft drivers who were paid by the trip (because the purpose of those companies is to provide rides and transportation); Court Reporters, who were paid by the job and the number of pages produced (because court reporting agencies provide court reporting services); Interpreters, who were paid by the half day or by the hour for specialized language services (because interpretation businesses are in the business of providing translation services); Cake Decorators (a bakery is in the business of baking and decorating desserts); Seamstresses who do piece work at home (because even though it is from home, it is the main business of the employer—sewing garments or articles).  These examples just give you an idea of the range of business activities that will be affected by the new law.  Many businesses may either need to let go a large number of their contractors and keep fewer people on the books, close down, or merge with other companies.  It will be a very interesting year for business owners.

Reclassified workers will receive guaranteed minimum wages, worker benefits and protections, like vacation and sick time.  If a company does hire independent contractors, then they may only hire them for 35 times before they must be added to the payroll.

Also on the employment front, AB 749 is good for workers who have been either injured on the job or let go for some other reason.  Many employers and insurance companies insist that an employee who terminates employment or settles a worker’s compensation claim must agree that they will never seek re-employment with that company again.  AB 749 invalidates those types of agreements.  An employer or insurance company cannot prevent the employee from gaining re-employment status.  The only time that this provision could be used by an employer is when the employee has been terminated for sexual harassment or sexual misconduct.

Another boost for female workers is SB 142 which provides that employers must provide a location for lactation purposes which is not a bathroom, and provides privacy and accommodates a mother’s need to pump breast milk during work hours.

SB 188 also improves the workplace for workers by allowing workers to style their hair in a natural style, which may include braids, locks, texture which otherwise would not have been permitted.

SB 83 also strives to help new parents and those taking care of family members who are ill by providing eight weeks of paid leave instead of six weeks of paid leave beginning in July 2020.

SB 30 extends the Domestic Partnership laws to heterosexual couples, not just same sex couples this year.  This will only affect California tax status – federal tax status does not recognize Domestic Partners.

The country’s strictest online consumer privacy law takes effect on January 1, 2020.  Consumers can obtain from companies any information the company has on the consumer, including any tracking, cookies, to whom information was sold or given, and the types of information obtained from them on-line.  The mechanisms have not been well defined at this time, but you will most likely see an increase in companies asking you to allow cookies for your on-line browsing.  This gives them implicit consent to track your preferences.

Of course, there are scores of additional new laws for 2020, but these employee based laws will have the most immediate impact on workers starting in January.

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