On behalf of Fairchild Employment Law | October 18, 2022 | California Leave Laws
California has added Labor Code section 1193 that prohibits an employer from “tak[ing] or threaten[ing] adverse action against any employee for refusing to report to, or leaving, a workplace or worksite within the affected area because the employee has a reasonable belief that the workplace or worksite is unsafe” in the event of an emergency condition. The new law becomes effective January 1, 2023.
SB 1044 defines “state of emergency” as the existence of any of the following in the county where a worker lives or works, and poses an imminent and ongoing risk of harm to the worker, the worker’s home, or the worker’s workplace:
- A presidential declaration of a major disaster or emergency, caused by natural forces.
- A declared state of emergency or local emergency due to conditions of disaster or extreme peril to the safety of persons or property within the affected area caused by natural forces.
- A federal, state, regional, or county alert of imminent threat to life or property due to a natural disaster or emergency.
SB 1044 also permits employees to walk off the job in an “emergency condition,” which means the existence of either of the following:
- An event that poses serious danger to the structure of a workplace or to a worker’s immediate health and safety.
- An order to evacuate a workplace, a worker’s home, or the school of a worker’s child.
Employers may not take or threaten any adverse action against an employee for refusing to report or leaving a workplace or worksite within an affected area because the employee has a reasonable belief that the workplace or worksite is unsafe. The statute does not apply to certain specified workers, including but not limited to first responders and employees who provide direct patient care at a health care facility.
Additionally, Labor Code section 1193 prohibits employers from preventing employees “from accessing [their] mobile device or other communications device for seeking emergency assistance, assessing the safety of the situation, or communicating with a person to verify their safety.”
Employers may require that, “when feasible, an employee shall notify the employer of the emergency condition requiring the employee to leave or refuse to report to the workplace or worksite prior to leaving or refusing to report.” These provisions are “not intended to apply when emergency conditions that pose an imminent and ongoing risk of harm to the workplace, the worksite, the worker, or the worker’s home have ceased.”