EMPLOYMENT LAW NEWS

Steady Increase in Temporary Hazard Pay Laws in California

By Jana Bjorklund, GovDocs’ Senior Counsel, Employment Law
Published March 25, 2021

Hazard Pay Laws in California

In just the first three months of 2021, more than 20 California cities and counties have passed hazard pay ordinances. 

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, hazard pay has taken on a new dimension. That’s especially true with hazard pay laws in California.

Generally, hazard pay is “additional pay for performing hazardous duty or work involving physical hardship” according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Historically, it has been associated with physically difficult work like mining, construction, dangerous jobs in the military, etc.

Before the pandemic, we would not have categorized work in grocery stores and retail drug stores as hazardous. COVID-19 has changed all that. Employees in grocery stores and retail pharmacies have an increased risk of exposure to and contraction of COVID-19 because of the work they do dealing with the public every day.

Hazard Pay and California

Hazard pay for certain front-line and essential workers was provided early on when the pandemic hit.  However, much of that additional pay ended last summer.

The HEROES Act proposed last year did include federal funds to provide hazard pay, but the measure did not pass. And as we have seen before — particularly with minimum wage and paid leave — states and cities step in when the federal government does not act.

Recently, we have seen a steady influx of California cities passing temporary hazard pay ordinances, which generally require large grocery and/or drug stores to pay workers additional hazard pay for the increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 that comes from doing their jobs.

In just the first three months of 2021, more than 20 California cities and counties have passed hazard pay ordinances. Most have an associated labor law posting.

Generally, these ordinances apply to larger grocery or retail pharmacy stores. Some ordinances have threshold levels of a certain number of employees and/or a certain amount of retail space. Some require a certain number of workers in their locations in the specific city. Most last around 120 days. As always, each jurisdiction is a bit different.

We expect this activity to continue at the city level in California. Let’s look at what we know right now.

California Cities and Counties with Hazard Pay

JURISDICTIONAPPLICABLE BUSINESSESHAZARD PAYEFFECTIVE DATEDURATION
BerkeleyEntities that employ more than 300 grocery workers nationwide.$5 per hourFeb. 23, 2021Minimum of 120 days
Buena ParkAny retail establishment in the city that employs at least 20 workers and whose owner, parent company, franchisor or network of franchises employs 500 or more employees nationally. $4 per hourMarch 9, 2021Minimum of 120 days
CoachellaAgricultural, grocery, restaurant and retail pharmacies$4 per hourFeb. 10, 2021Minimum of 120 days
Costa MesaRetail stores with at least 300 employees nationwide and 15 employees in the city and meets one of the following:
1) The store located in Costa Mesa devotes 70 percent or more of sales floor to food products or receives 70 percent or more revenue from food product sales;
2) Is more than 85,000 square feet and devotes 10 percent or more of sales floor to non-taxable merchandise; or
3) Is a retail pharmacy.
$4 per hourMarch 16, 2021Minimum of 120 days
Daly CityGrocery and drug stores that employ 500 or more employees nationwide.$5 per hourMarch 9, 2021Minimum of 120 days
IrvineApplies to grocery and drug stores with more than 500 employees nationwide and at least 20 employees at the store in the city:
1) Stores with 70 percent or more of its sales floor dedicated to food products or receive 70 percent or more revenue from food product sales;
2) Stores with more than 85,000 square feet and devotes 10 percent or more of its sales floor to non-taxable merchandise, or
3) Retail pharmacies.
$4 per hourFeb. 23, 2021Minimum of 120 days
Long BeachGrocery stores that employ more than 300 workers nationwide and more than 15 employees per grocery store in the city.$4 per hourFeb. 2, 2021Minimum of 120 days
Los AngelesGrocery and drug stores with more than 300 employees nationwide and more than 10 employees on-site in the city.

Retail stores with at least one site in the city over 85,000 square feet that has 10 percent of sales floor dedicated to groceries, or 10 percent of its sales floor to drug retail.

$5 per hourMarch 8, 2021Minimum of 120 days
MillbraeGrocery stores and pharmacies with 750 or more employees nationwide.$5 per hourMarch 9, 2021Minimum of 120 days
MontebelloGrocery and drug stores operated by companies that employ more than 300 employees nationwide and have more than 15 employees per store in the city.$4 per hourJan. 27, 2021Minimum of 180 days
OaklandGrocery stores with over 15,000 square feet in size operated by companies that employ 500 or more employees nationwide.$5 per hourFeb. 2, 2021During risk period
Palm SpringsApplies to grocery and retail pharmacies with 300 or more employees nationwide and more than 15 employees per location in the city.

Grocery store includes those that devote 70 percent or more of the sales floor to food products or is a store that dedicates at least 15,000 square feet to food products.

$4 per hourFeb. 25, 2021Minimum of 120 days
PomonaGrocery and retail pharmacies that employ 300 or more employees nationwide and employs more than 10 employees per location in the city.$4 per hourMarch 1, 2021Minimum 120 days
San FranciscoGeneral grocery, specialty grocery or pharmacy that employs 500 or more workers nationwide and at least 20 employees onsite in the city.$5 per hourMarch 9, 202161 days or until public health emergency ends
San JoseGrocery stores that employ 300 or more employees nationwide.$3 per hourFeb. 23, 2021Minimum of 120 days
San MateoGrocery stores and drug stores that employ 750 or more employees nationwide.$5 per hourMarch 15, 2021Minimum of 90 days
Santa AnaGrocery stores and pharmacies with more than 300 workers nationally and more than 15 workers per location in Santa Ana.$4 per hourMarch 3, 2021Minimum of 120 days
South San FranciscoGrocery and drug stores that employ 500 or more employees nationwide.$5 per hourRetroactive to Feb. 11, 2021Minimum of 90 days
Santa MonicaApplies to grocery stores and drug stores that employ 300 or more workers nationwide and employ more than 10 workers per site in the city.

Includes retail stores that sell a variety of prescription and non-prescription drugs, along with food products, or is over 85,000 square feet and dedicates 10 percent of its sales floor to grocers or dedicates 10 percent of its sales floor to drug retail.

$5 per hourMarch 9, 2021Minimum of 120 days
West HollywoodGrocery stores that employ more than 300 workers nationwide and more than 15 employees per grocery store in the city.$5 per hourFeb. 16, 2021Minimum of 120 days
Los Angeles CountyRetail grocery stores, retail drug stores, and large retail stores with a grocery or drug store component located in the unincorporated areas of the county.$5 per hourFeb. 23, 2021Minimum of 120 days
Santa Clara CountyGrocery stores and drug stores in the unincorporated areas of Santa Clara that employ 300 or more employees nationwide and 15 or more employees in each store in the county.$5 per hourMarch 9, 2021Minimum of 180 days

Conclusion

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted employment law in ways many of us never imagined.

New and updated paid leave laws, hazard pay, workplace safety mandates… the list of items employers have had to cope with over the past year seems nearly endless. And while the special hazard pay rates in California will eventually come to an end, the spotlight on more robust employment laws will likely continue.

It’s incumbent upon employers to stay on top of these changes as the lasting effects of COVID-19 come to fruition in the future.

This Employment Law News blog is intended for market awareness only, it is not to be used for legal advice or counsel.

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