Cal\OSHA Changes Interpretation of Laws

For 2017, Cal\OSHA is aligning itself more completely with OSHA in the way it views repeat offenders.  You can read the whole report written by Littler Global at this site https://www.littler.com/publication-press/publication/calosha-amendment-significantly-expands-its-definition-%E2%80%9Crepeat%E2%80%9D

In Summary, Cal\OSHA can now go back 5 years and if you have a “substantially similar” citation at any of your locations in California, it will be considered a “repeat” violation and you could be subject to fines of over $70,000.  The five year look-back begins on the date that the citation is finalized, so if you appeal the citation, it could delay the finalizing date and mean the actual time from the original violation could be almost 6 years old and still be within the 5-year window for repeats.  This may affect strategies going forward.

Also, please take note of the fact that this is a repeat at any facility within your organization that is in the State.  So, if you have a citation for your eyewash station in one location, if you have a shower citations (substantially similar) problem in another location, they could be listed as repeat violations and the fines would grow about 4 fold.

Comparing first-quarter figures from the past six years, the number of Cal/OSHA investigations has risen steadily, from 2,608 in 2011 to 3,375 in 2016, nearly a 30% increase. Citations for alleged serious violations have increased even more significantly – by 330% in the same period. Alleged serious violations represented 21% of total cited alleged violations for the first quarter of 2016 versus only 10% in 2011.

So, be prepared.  Walk your property with an open eye.  Invite HR Mobile Services to come out and help you identify problems.  Check your paperwork!

The clear message here is that you should take these citations seriously and implement changes at all locations to address an issue so that it does not cost you again.

Final Thoughts on 2016 and a Caution to Legislators and Employers for 2017

I will begin this by saying that some of this article is focused on California, while much can be applicable to the rest of the United States.  The San Joaquin Valley is a microcosm of what has taken place across this country.  The rural, farming and agriculture areas of this country are tired of being ignored.   And finally, they stood up in November and got the attention of the people that think that life is only lived in big cities.

California politicians are very good at double speak.  They say they are supportive of Agriculture, but none of them every actually come to the Valley to talk to business owners.  On the rare occasion they do come to the Valley it is to talk to the workers or to point at a High Speed Rail train that is not going to do anything for people here.

The fact is, California, and many State governments across the country, would prefer if Agriculture would just go away.  They would much rather we were all working in a state full of Silicone Valley businesses.  They are cleaner, there would be no fight over water, and we could just ignore it altogether.  In the past election, we did not get visits by Hillary (Trump dropped in quickly) and Kamala Harris (the new Senator) didn’t bother with and knows nothing about this side of California.  The Governor has only been to Fresno a few times in 6 years and that is never to learn about real issues (he knows it all I guess).

For the rest of the country, the story is similar.  President Obama flew over the rest of the US and only visited a few coastal states in 8 years in office.  He came to California almost monthly to San Francisco or Los Angeles to attend a fund raiser, but on the ONE occasion that he came to the valley to discuss the drought, he got off the plane, went to a dirt field for about 1 hour and then flew out because he had a golf date in Southern California (where they had water to make beautiful greens for his putting).  We never saw a thing done about the drought after that and still have not until last week when a bill (0pposed by outgoing Senator Barbara Boxer) was signed by the President to help us build dams.  This was not because of any work done by the President, but by the work of our Representatives from the Valley that finally got enough support from  enough people in both parties to get this to the President despite Barbara Boxer.

One of the most telling examples of how Legislators view business owners is how they write regulations.  Almost all regulations start with the assumption that most employers are bad.  In fact, many times it is actually written into the introduction and states that this bill must be passed to protect the workers, etc.  The reality is that most employers work very hard with their employees to create a family atmosphere.  The regulations get in the way of much of this.  Every time the government mandates a benefit that many people are already doing for their employees, they add cumbersome requirements, and many pages of fines and penalties if you do not do it exactly right.  In a more practical world, doing your best should count for something, but not according to our Legislators.  So, every time they add a benefit, many employers remove another benefit so they can afford the one the government wants.  There is only one pot of money, but Legislators think employers can just invent more money like Congress does and it just isn’t the case.

If there is one takeaway from the recent Presidential elections is that middle-America and rural areas are tired of being ignored or shoved aside by our representatives.  If you don’t visit and really listen to their issues, you run the chance of being replaced.  Not all issues affecting business and employees can be handled by looking out the window in Los Angeles or Sacramento or Washington, D.C.  I hope they pay attention or 2018 could be a very turbulent year as well.

BUT THERE IS A RESPONSIBILITY OF THE OWNER\EMPLOYER AS WELL:

In 1999, in California, Governor Gray Davis signed the labor bills establishing daily as well as weekly overtime rules.  It also established a 30 minute employee meal with stern regulations.  Here we are 17 years later and there are still a number of employers who ignore, or do not know of these laws, or simply choose to go their own way.  This affects all of us.  When an employer does not follow the simple laws and refuses to do things like installing a time clock and paying people for the hours they work, they give every employer a black eye and give every Legislator an easy excuse to add new laws and regulations.  In other words, a few stubborn bad employers are making business hard for everyone else.  Instead of just complaining about the State or the Federal government, if  you know an employer that is not following the law, talk to them and let them know they are a big part of the problem.

The easiest way to pay people with the least amount of work on your part is to pay people exactly what they work based on a time clock.  Anything else you are doing is why we keep getting more “wage theft” headlines.  Let’s all resolve in 2017 to pay people for what they work and hold them accountable for the job.  Spend your hard time enforcing your rules instead of working hard to explain a poor payroll practice.  With minimum wages going up and other regulations coming to many States, 2017 is a good year to get on board the right train.  HR Mobile Services, Inc. is there to help you do it, but you have to follow the program to make it successful.

Have a Happy and Prosperous New Year!!!

WAL-MART TRUCKING LOSES $54 MILLION LAWSUIT OVER UNPAID BREAKS AND WAGE THEFT

Below is a great article from the Fresno Bee regarding a local Law Firm that is making a living off of suing Trucking companies.  They even brag that they have 3 more lawsuits pending.  If you have trucks (one or a hundred) you should be award of these lawsuits and be talking to your attorney before you are put in this spot.

UPDATE TO FEDERAL SALARY RULES

Word reached us this morning that a Federal Judge has ruled against the recent changes to the Federal Overtime Exemption and Salary rules including the new minimum of $47,476 per  year for Federal Salary exempt employees .  This rule would have been higher than the California rule of twice the minimum wage, which, in a 40 hour workweek would come to around $42,000 per year.  Please read the article below, but understand that some states including California have rules over and above the Federal law.  When State law is more favorable to the employee than Federal law, the State law takes precedents and you must follow it.  Here is the article:

 Federal Overtime Rules on Hold
Tuesday afternoon, a federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas issued a nationwide preliminary injunction on the Department of Labor’s new overtime rules, which were slated to go into effect in just over a week on December 1, 2016. The judge ruled that the Department of Labor (DOL) likely overstepped its rulemaking authority by raising the salary threshold as high as it did and by implementing the automatic increase every three years. What this means now:

  1. The effective date of the rules has been delayed indefinitely.
  2. Employers may choose not to implement the changes they had planned for Dec. 1 compliance.
  3. The new rules have not been thrown out or invalidated – at least not yet.

The judge has not made a final ruling in the case, but the fact that he issued the injunction suggests that he is leaning in favor of the groups that want to stop the rule changes. It is also possible that his final decision will allow some parts of the rule to stand but not others. The DOL has indicated that in the meantime they are considering their legal options with respect to the preliminary injunction. Employers are obviously wondering whether they should move forward with the changes they have been planning. Unfortunately, this is a difficult question to answer and ultimately a business decision, which is much harder than a compliance decision. Although employers are not required to make changes, they may want to consider the following:

  • Will it hurt the bottom line to make the changes? If so, how much?
  • Will it be difficult to undo changes that have already been made?
  • How will employees feel about the decision? Did they like the changes? Hate the changes?
  • Is the new pay structure better than what is in place now?
  • If the changes aren’t implemented now, will it be possible to make them on short notice in the future?

At this point, we do not know how long the injunction will be in place or if the rules will be thrown out entirely. We will be keeping an extremely close eye on this case and will issue further e-Alerts when actionable information is made available.

 

ALL CALIF. EMPLOYERS BE READY FOR NEW PROP. 65 REQUIREMENTS IN 2018

California has been dealing with Prop. 65 (notice of possible Cancer causing items in use).  Well, recently we were hoping that this bill, which has been a boon to California lawyers, would be pruned and made more practical.  Instead, they have made it much tougher for almost every employer in California beginning in 2018.  There are over 800 chemicals on the present list.  Here is the list:  https://oehha.ca.gov/proposition-65/proposition-65-list .   Beginning in 2018, the old sign stating that “chemicals known to cause cancer” that  you see everywhere from every restaurant and hospital to gas stations to ball parks, will now require a sign that lists all chemicals in use at any facility.  That means barber shops to dairy farms will need to have this list posted in plain view for all people entering the property.

On its face this is absurd.  This is another example of politicians trying to show people how they are protecting us, when the reality is that no one pays attention or reads it.  As proof, how many people really read the required postings by every employer near their time clock or break room?  It is another venue for lawyers to file lawsuits against employers while not protecting anyone.

You can read a very good article regarding this story from  Joseph Perrone in the Fresno Bee.   Here is the link: https://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/article114970193.html

While we have time, the recent elections do not give us much hope that any sanity will return to the California State Legislature.  However, with people starting to campaign for the Governor position in 2  years, I would suggest that anytime you are confronted by any of these aspiring politicians, you ask them their stance on this issue and why.  It may provide some attention and action to make this proposition more practical.

 

CURRENT I-9 WILL BE REPLACED SOON

Employers: Current Form I-9 valid until Jan. 21, 2017

On Aug. 25, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved a revised Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. USCIS must publish a revised form by Nov. 22, 2016. Employers may continue using the current version of Form I-9 with a revision date of 03/08/2013 N until Jan. 21, 2017. After Jan. 21, 2017, all previous versions of Form I-9 will be invalid.

HR Mobile Services, Inc. has been working on this topic since last year when we knew we were coming close to the expiration date for the I-9 form.  Apparently, even though that date has been on the form for years, the US government is still allowed to be 8 months late to do their job……But you don’t.

Anyway, please be assured that if you are a HR Mobile, Inc. client, we will be replacing the I-9 form as quickly as possible in all of our new-hire packets as soon as it is available.  This will not happen immediately in all cases, but will definitely be completed before the January 21, 2017 deadline.  We will also be including any late changes to the laws based on the election or other late changes that are part of the year-end processes across the country.  For some states that could be a change to minimum wages, sick pay or drug policies among other things.  As always, if you have a question, please call our office.  We may be calling you as well in certain circumstances to ask or clarify how you want to deal with a new law.

Good Luck to everyone as we enter an interesting 2017.

ARIZONA TO VOTE ON RAISE TO MINIMUM WAGE AND SICK PAY

Arizona, following the trend in neighboring States like California, has initiative 206 on the November 8 ballot.  It seems probable at this point that the initiative may pass.  If it does, beginning January 1, the minimum wage will rise to $10 per hour and eventually get to $12 per hour by 2020.  Voters in Flagstaff are voting to raise the limit to $15 per hour.

Included in the proposition is also the addition of Paid Sick Leave.  Similar to the law established in California, it provides that the employee earns one hour of sick pay for every 30 hours worked.  Employers with less than 15 employees will have to provide 24 hours of sick pay and those over 15 employees will provide up to 40 hours per year.  The unused hours can roll over to the next year.  Alternatively, the employer can “front-load” all hours anticipated at the beginning of the regulation, which is July 1, 2017.  There is no payout of unused hours at the time of termination.  However, if an employee comes back to work for  you within 9 months they are started right where they left off and they can use any hours that were left on the books.

There are more rules to this, but let me warn everyone that retaliation or arguing with an employee about using their earned sick hours will not go well for the employer.  Experience in California has shown that trying to bully employees or retaliate for the use of this sick pay does not go well in court for the employer and the fines can be very expensive.

Below is from the review of the Proposition with links to read the rest of the bill.  It is pretty easy to read and there is a lot of information that bookkeepers and employers will have to know about this law.  As always, HR Mobile Services, Inc. has experience in these laws and will help guide the transition including the changes to your employee hire packets.

The Minimum Wage and Paid Time Off Initiative, also known as Proposition 206, is on the November 8, 2016, ballot in Arizona as an initiated state statute.

A “yes” vote supports raising the minimum wage to $10 in 2017, and then incrementally to $12 by 2020, and creating a right to paid sick time off from employment.
A “no” vote opposes this measure, keeping the minimum wage at $8.05, adjusted for cost of living, and retaining employers’ ability to decide whether or not to offer paid sick time off.

In November 2016, voters in Colorado and Maine are also voting on measures to increase their state minimum wages to $12. In Washington, citizens are voting on an initiative to increase the minimum wage to $13.50.

Overview

Minimum wage in Arizona

Arizona’s minimum wage is $8.05 per hour in 2016. The federal minimum wage is $7.25. Due to Proposition 202 of 2006, the state’s minimum wage increases with the cost-of-living. Without Proposition 206, Arizona’s minimum wage is expected to increase to $8.15 in 2017.[1] In November 2016, voters in Flagstaff, Arizona, are voting on whether to increase their city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.[2]

Initiative design

Proposition 206 would increase the minimum wage to $10 in 2017, $10.50 in 2018, $11.00 in 2019, and $12 in 2020. Starting in 2021, the measure would increase the minimum wage with the cost of living. The measure retains Arizona’s law regarding tipping, which permits employers to pay employees who receive tips up to $3.00 less than the minimum wage.[3][4]

The initiative would also guarantee 40 hours of annual paid sick time to employees of businesses with 15 or more employees and 24 hours to those of businesses with less than 15 employees. Employees would be entitled to accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. The measure would permit earned paid sick time to be utilized for an employee’s medical care, an employee’s need to care for a family member, a public health emergency, or addressing domestic violence.

State of ballot measure campaigns

Supporters had raised $1.5 million as of October 10, 2016. Living United for Change in Arizona had donated almost $1 million to the campaign. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce launched an opposition campaign, Protect Arizona Jobs, on September 19, 2016, and is expecting to spend over $1 million. Polls indicate that around 56 percent of Arizonans support Proposition 206.

Text of measure

Ballot title

The ballot title is as follows:[5]

INCREASES THE MINIMUM WAGE FROM $8.05 PER HOUR IN 2016 TO $12.00 PER HOUR BY 2020 AND ESTABLISHES THE RIGHT TO EARN PAID SICK TIME AWAY FROM EMPLOYMENT.A “yes” vote shall have the effect of increasing the minimum wage from $8.05 per hour in 2016 to $10.00 per hour in 2017, and then incrementally increasing the minimum wage to $12.00 per hour by the year 2020; entitles employees to earn 1 hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked with limits based upon the size of the employer; broadly defining the conditions under which paid sick time may be taken, including mental or physical illness, care of a family member, a public health emergency, or absence due to domestic violence, sexual violence, abuse or stalking; prohibiting various forms of retaliation against employees for exercising any rights under the law; and requiring employers to provide various notices to employees about the law.

A “no” vote shall have the effect of retaining the existing minimum wage (along with the existing method for annually increasing the minimum wage for inflation) and retaining employers’ existing ability to determine their own earned paid sick leave policy.[6]

Ballot summary

The ballot summary is as follows:[7]

The Fair Wages and Healthy Families Initiative increases minimum wage to $10 in 2017 then gradually to $12 by 2020; provides 40 hours annual “earned paid sick time” for employees of large employers (24 hours for those of small employers); time accrues at one hour earned for every 30 hours worked; time may be used to address circumstances caused by illness of employee or employee’s family, public health emergencies, or domestic violence; prohibits retaliating against employees using the benefit; allows for more generous paid time-off policies; and exempts employees who expressly waive the benefit under collective bargaining agreements.[6]

Full text

The full text of the measure can be found here.

Fiscal analysis

See also: Fiscal analysis statement

An extended summary of the fiscal analysis statement can be found here.

CALIFORNIA AND ARIZONA EMPLOYERS SHARE RISKS OF NEW MARIJUANA INITIATIVES

The article below is from the Arizona Chamber of Commerce in its entirety followed by an article from the Orange County Register in California.  The exact same arguments can be made for California.  There is almost no doubt that this will pass in California but the supporters refuse to allow questions on their websites and will not address the legalities that will face employers.

Factor into all of this is the new drug testing (or non-testing) standard set by OSHA on a Federal level and employers are in a real bind if they try to keep drugs out of the workplace.  Under Federal OSHA you cannot drug test post-injury unless the use of drugs or alcohol would be considered the proximate cause of the accident AND the test must be able to establish that the employee was under the influence at the time of the accident.  Since there is no legal test for THC levels, you will not be able to test for or fire someone just because THC from marijuana is in their body.  This is a major problem that no one wants to address until attorney’s get ahold of it in a big trial and sue the owner because they were aware the employee had marijuana in their system and did not remove them from operating equipment.  Just wait!

Here is the story.  In California, it is Proposition 64.  Below the Arizona comments is a article from the Orange County Register in California regarding their proposition:

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and No on 205 this Thursday, October 27 at 2 PM are hosting a tele-town hall for employers who are concerned about the effect of legalized marijuana in their workplace. Call 1-877-229-8493, PIN 115868.  

The proposed Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, otherwise known as Proposition 205, would massively affect existing Arizona law. Put simply, Proposition 205 would negatively impact Arizona law and policy in a variety of significant ways, including how job creators manage their workforce and workplace.

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is proud to spearhead efforts to defeat this job-killing initiative. In Proposition 205’s 20 pages of conflicting and contradictory legalese, there are two key provisions that are particularly problematic for employers: proposed A.R.S. §§ 36-2860(A) and 36-2860(B). These two provisions, and Proposition 205 in general, are poised to wreak havoc on Arizona in a manner not disclosed in the initiative or acknowledged by its out-of-state marijuana industry backers.

The aforementioned provisions would upend Arizona’s employment laws in the following ways:

  • It would rob employers of the ability to take disciplinary action against employees who test positivefor marijuana, despite having a statutorily approved drug-testing policy. Want a drug-free workplace? Proposition 205 makes that more difficult.
  • It would create an environment for an avalanche of wrongful termination lawsuitsfor employers that fire employees for using marijuana on the theory that the termination was in violation of Proposition 205.
  • It would tangle Arizona businesses in a web of regulations that conflict with federal lawregarding safe workplaces, safe roads and transport, and safe foods. Does your business have federal contracts? Under Proposition 205, you’ll be forced to navigate two conflicting sets of laws.

Proposition 205 would be a trial lawyer’s dream. Compounded with the clashes above, these provisions would create conflict within laws related to various Arizona benefit programs, too. For example:

  • Proposition 205 would create a situation where, under Arizona’s welfare laws, marijuana would be considered both legal and illegal, resulting in costly litigation.
  • Proposition 205 would also create a situation where Arizona’s unemployment insurance laws would require a person to be denied benefits, yet it would also prohibit such denial, again resulting in costly litigation.
  • Lastly, it would be virtually impossible for Arizona employers to receive a statutory discount on workers’ compensation premiums for having a zero-tolerance drug-free workplace.

Propostion 205 is a mess. Its passage would harm employers’ ability to keep marijuana out of their workplace, whille exposing them to expensive lawsuits. Arizona job creators who are concerned about our state’s ability to continue to attract and grow jobs should vote no on Proposition 205.

WHAT:           Tele-town hall on Proposition 205’s effect on employers

WHEN:           Thursday, October 27 at 2 PM

HOW:              Call 1-877-229-8493; enter 115868 when prompted for a PIN

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Why Prop 64 is about more than just smoking marijuana

By BROOKE EDWARDS STAGGS

2016-10-24 14:33:08

Proposition 64, on its surface, poses a simple question: Should people be free to smoke pot in California?

But the 62-page initiative on the Nov. 8 ballot asks voters to determine much more than that.

It asks them to decide how much cannabis Californians should be allowed to carry, whether they should be able to grow it in their homes and what, if any, penalties consumers should face going forward.

RELATED: Prop 64 to legalize marijuana: Who’s backing it, who’s fighting it and why?

It also asks them to weigh the future of a multibillion-dollar industry, including everything from how marijuana businesses should be taxed to what warning labels should appear on edible products.

Depending on who you ask, either the devil or the redemption is in those details.

Supporters call Prop. 64 the “gold standard” of marijuana legalization, touting strict safeguards that build on lessons learned by the four states that already allow recreational pot.

Some opponents say the measure doesn’t go far enough to keep kids and roadways safe, while detractors on the other end of the spectrum say the measure includes too many regulations to be true “legalization.”

With the vote about two weeks away, here’s a closer look at what Prop. 64 means for California.

PERSONAL RIGHTS

Prop. 64 would allow California residents and visitors 21 and older to buy, carry and give away up to an ounce of marijuana. That’s enough to roll perhaps 40 average-sized joints.

They also could possess up to 8 grams of concentrated cannabis, such as waxes or oils that can be vaporized or mixed into foods.

Under the measure, residents could grow as many as six pot plants at home and keep what they harvest. But the plants couldn’t be visible to the public. And local governments could regulate how they’re grown, including requiring that it be done indoors.

No one could consume recreational pot in public. Consumption would be allowed only on private property or in “cannabis cafes” licensed strictly for marijuana use.

The initiative would uphold laws against driving while impaired or having an open container of marijuana in a car. But it wouldn’t establish a threshold, as Colorado and Washington did, for how much THC (the compound in pot that makes users high) drivers could legally have in their blood.

Prop. 64 backers say that’s because blood alcohol content isn’t a good measure for marijuana impairment, since pot stays in the system long after its mind-altering effects have worn off. So the initiative would direct tax revenue to law enforcement and researchers to develop better tests for drugged driving.

The measure would protect employer rather than employee rights, allowing companies to hire and fire based on drug tests.

But the penalties for most marijuana-related crimes, which studies show disproportionately affect minorities, would be lower if the measure passes. Adults convicted of possession with intent to sell would get six months in jail rather than two years in prison, for example, while teens caught with the drug would get counseling and community service instead of criminal records. And those changes would be retroactive, meaning marijuana offenders could be released from jail or have their records expunged if the measure passes.

Prop. 64 also would uphold existing rights for medical marijuana patients, allowing them to still grow more pot than recreational consumers and access medical marijuana at 18 years old. They would face some additional taxes, though they’d also gain privacy and child custody protections.

If the measure is approved, all of these personal rights would take effect the day after the election, on Nov. 9.

BUSINESS PLAN

It would take a bit longer for the taxed and regulated recreational marijuana industry promised by Prop. 64 to take shape.

Shops would start to open on or before Jan. 1, 2018.

That’s the date California officials expect to start issuing licenses to all medical marijuana growers, manufacturers and sellers under industry regulations signed into law in 2015.

Prop. 64 would largely extend the same regulatory framework to recreational marijuana production, with requirements for licensing, testing, child-resistant packaging, limited advertising and tracking pot from seed to sale.

The initiative would establish a 15 percent sales tax, plus a tax by weight for growers. That would be on top of taxes local governments tack on and regular state sales tax, though medical marijuana users would be exempt from the latter.

Small- and medium-sized businesses would get an edge coming out of the gate, since Prop. 64 bans large-scale cultivation for the first five years. But after Jan. 1, 2023, there would be no state cap on the size of marijuana farms.

Cities and counties would still have authority to regulate, tax or ban marijuana-related businesses in their borders. Many have already started passing laws in anticipation of Prop. 64, with 62 local measures related to marijuana on the ballot Nov. 8.

THE OUTLOOK

Nearly every poll on Prop. 64 suggests it will pass – though perhaps narrowly. Recent polls have ranged from 51 percent to 71 percent support, with many averaging around 60 percent.

But advertising to defeat Prop. 64 is being aired. And in California the popularity of measures often shifts in the final days before an election.

If the measure becomes law, industry experts predict that California’s legal weed market will reach $6.5 billion by 2020 and potentially spur legalization throughout the country.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office anticipates that tax revenue from the measure could top $1 billion annually, with the justice system potentially saving tens of millions more on enforcement costs.

The revenue won’t go to state or local general funds. Instead, it will be set aside to fund youth prevention programs, marijuana research, better drugged driving tests, environmental remediation and grants to impacted communities.

The impact legal marijuana has on highway safety, teen use and crime isn’t yet clear. There are conflicting reports coming out of states such as Colorado and Washington, which approved legal pot in 2012. And experts say they need more years of reliable data before they have definitive answers.

More research is also needed on how recreational marijuana use ultimately affects health and achievement, with particular concern over today’s increasingly potent pot. But studies increasingly suggest that, while marijuana consumption may pose some risks for young people and the mentally ill, responsible use appears to have little impact on healthy adults.

With valid concerns on both sides of the issue, Dr. Igor Grant, who heads up the Center for Medical Cannabis Research at UC San Diego, said it’ll be up to voters to weigh the impacts of prohibition against potential impacts of legalization.

“There’s a cost-benefit analysis that voters have to make,” he said.

Contact the writer: 714-796-7963 or bstaggs@ocregister.comTwitter: @JournoBrooke

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GOV. BROWN SIGNS INDOOR HEAT ILLNESS MANDATE

Yes, you read that correctly.  The State of California feels that people working in-doors deserve the same protections from Heat Illness training as outdoor workers.  Now, on some levels this makes sense.  For instance, a worker in a factory could be exposed to severe heat conditions. Other similar places could be electrical generation areas, greenhouses, building construction, attic insulation installers, electricians, plumbers, etc.  So, this could have some practical applications in the workplace.

That being said, it is a very poorly written bill, SB 1167 (Mendoza; D-Artesia) , which gives almost no direction as to the definition of an “indoor occupation” that would be covered under this act.  In fact, the entire project is left almost completely to Cal\OSHA to write and implement this program.  They have to begin the rule making process in 2017 to submit a proposed rule to the Cal/OSHA Standards Board by January 1, 2019.

This is a stakeholder driven process, so it is very important that your industry is part of the conversation.  If you have an advocacy group, get them involved early to state your position before the rules are written.  It is almost impossible to fight or have them re-written later.

 

GOVERNOR BROWN SIGNS BILL SETTING UP RETIREMENT FUND FOR LOW WAGE WORKERS

 

Before anyone panics, let me say up front that employers do not have to fund any of this with their own money, you just have to set this up in your payroll so that a percentage of an employees check goes to a State run retirement programSo now let me tell you what we know:

Gov. Jerry Brown is scheduled to sign legislation Thursday to automatically enroll nearly 7 million people in a retirement savings account, an attempt to address growing fears that many workers will be financially unprepared to retire.

The legislation creates a state-run retirement program for workers who don’t have an employer-sponsored plan, many of them working in lower-wage positions. It requires employers to automatically enroll their workers and deduct money from each paycheck, though workers can opt out or set their own savings rate. The account could also be carried from job to job.  It is suggested that originally 5% would be deducted and it would go up by 1% per year until it settles at 10%.  I do not know many workers, especially low income people that can afford 10% of their income being taken away for this program.

Supporters of the concept hope that requiring workers to affirmatively opt out will make them less likely to do so, but it is up to employers to make sure all employees will be aware of this program and that they can opt-out.  Experience from the health insurance program is that most employees will opt-out if it involves their own money.

This bill is known as SB1234 by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles.  It will be called SECURE CHOICE.  You may thank him directly if you are so disposed or let him know what you think of his idea at   https://sd24.senate.ca.gov/contact/email

Below are some key points.  This program will not open until the 9 member panel charged with oversight of the program is installed, so this may not start for a year or two.

KEY FEATURES OF THE CALIFORNIA SECURE CHOICE RETIREMENT SAVINGS PROGRAM:

Governing and Oversight Board

The California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Investment Board (https://www.treasurer.ca.gov/scib/) is modeled after ScholarShare, California’s 529 College Savings Plan. The Board is comprised of nine members: the State Treasurer (Chair), State Controller, Director of the Department of Finance, a retirement savings and investment expert appointed by the Senate Rules Committee, an employee representative appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly, a small business representative appointed by the Governor, and three additional public members appointed by the Governor. Page 3 of 4

The Board is charged with the administration of the Secure Choice Program, and to date has overseen the completion of the legal analysis and the mandated market analysis and feasibility study. In moving forward with the full implementation of the program, the Board will be the ongoing administrator for the hiring of private firms to manage the investment portfolio and the individual retirement savings accounts.

Disclosures for Employees and Employer Liability Protections

Employees offered the opportunity to participate in the Secure Choice Program will receive a program information packet with a disclosure form that includes the benefits and risks of making retirement contributions, the mechanics of how to participate in or opt out of the program, the process for the withdrawal of retirement savings, and how to obtain additional information about the program.

The disclosure form will clearly inform employees that employers are not liable for their decisions whether to participate in or opt out of the program, or for employee investment decisions, and state that their employer is not a fiduciary of the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Trust or program, the employer does not bear responsibility for how the program is administered, and the employer is not liable with regard to investment returns and benefits paid to program participants.

In addition, the disclosure form will notify employees that the program is not an employer-sponsored retirement plan, their employers are not in a position to provide financial advice, and that they should contact financial advisors if they want to seek financial advice.

To notify employees that the state is not liable for the retirement savings benefit, the disclosure form will also specify that the Secure Choice program fund is not guaranteed by the State of California.

Employees that choose to participate in the program will be required to acknowledge that they have received and read all of the disclosures.

Employee Participation in the Secure Choice Program

When the Secure Choice Board officially opens the program for enrollment, only employers that do not offer their own employer-sponsored retirement plan (such as a 401(k), SEP, or SIMPLE plan) or automatic enrollment payroll deduction IRA will have to perform the ministerial duty of supplying the information packet and disclosure form, and allow their employees to remit contributions through payroll deduction.

Employees will be automatically enrolled, and employee participation will be phased-in over a three year timeframe, starting with the largest employers:

 Employers with 100+ employees: allow employee participation within 12 months of the Board opening the program for enrollment;

 Employers with 50+ employees: within 24 months;

 All other eligible employers: within 36 months.

Participation by employees will be completely voluntarily, and employees will retain the ability to opt out at any time.

The default employee contribution rate will be set at 3%, with Board authority to adjust the amount between 2-5%. Through regulation, the Board could also establish an auto-escalation contribution rate, capped at 8% of salary with a limitation on increasing the rate no more than 1% annually. Employees will be able to specify their level of contribution if they do not want to contribute the default rate, and could also opt out of auto-escalation at any time. Page 4 of 4

Employees that already have access to a workplace retirement plan could also voluntarily participate in the Secure Choice Program. However, their employer will not be obligated to allow them to use their payroll system to make automatic payroll contributions to the program.

Role of Employers

Employers that opt to make the Secure Choice Program available to their employees will not bear any fiduciary responsibility and will not be required to pay administrative fees or comply with federal quarterly-reporting mandates. The administrative function of employers will be limited to providing employees with the program information packet and disclosure form, and allowing their employees access to their payroll system to make payroll deductions to the program.

Due to current federal prohibitions, voluntary employer contributions to employees’ individual retirement accounts will only be permitted if there is a future change in federal law and employer contributions would not cause the Secure Choice Program to be treated as an employee benefit plan under ERISA.

WE WILL WRITE MORE ON THIS TOPIC WHEN THERE IS MORE INFORMATION AND WE ARE NEARER TO IMPLEMENTATION.