As HR practitioners are well aware, federal and California laws require employers to post a large number of notices in the workplace. These notices are generally intended to make employees aware of their rights under various laws and provide information about how employees can report complaints to the relevant agencies. For the most part, these notices are required to be physically posted in conspicuous places in the workplace, such as break rooms or other common areas, where employees can easily read them, but a new California law may help employers with employees requesting flexibility on work location.
What about employees who work remotely and don’t visit the office breakroom? This question existed long before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the huge shift to remote work brought the issue into sharp focus. The pandemic made it clear that there needed to be another, more effective way to provide required information to remote employees. Senate Bill 657 (SB 657) moves things in the right direction.
Signed by Governor Newsom on July 16, 2021, SB 657 takes effect on January 1, 2022. It adds a short section to the Labor Code simply stating that in any instance in which an employer is required to physically post information, an employer “may also distribute that information to employees by email with the document or documents attached.” But this bill doesn’t alter the employer’s obligation to physically display the required posting.
This is a good development for California employers who have been forced to change the way they conduct their business in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill doesn’t really change the law — employers must still comply with existing requirements to physically post notices in the workplace — but it does clarify that employers may also send electronic notices to their employees, which, in most cases, is the most convenient, effective way to communicate the required information to remote workers. Even after the pandemic is behind us, this commonsense method for effectively communicating information to employees will be helpful for workplaces that opt to continue remote work arrangements.
Though this is a good development, here’s a couple of compliance issues to consider:
- First, SB 657 specifically states that it doesn’t alter employers’ obligation to physically display required posters, so employers will still need physical posters/notices in their workplaces.
- Second, this bill adds the electronic distribution provision to the Labor Code. This could be construed to limit its application to notices required only under the Labor Code (e.g., Wage Orders, paid sick leave and Cal/OSHA notices) and may not cover notices required under different state laws, like the Fair Employment and Housing Act.
- Third, SB 657 is limited to California law only and doesn’t affect employers’ federal poster requirement obligations such as federal minimum wage and Family and Medical Leave Act posting requirements.
The new law takes effect January 1, 2022. Employers considering sending electronic notices to employees should consult with their legal counsel to ensure compliance with all state and federal posting requirements.
James W. Ward, J.D., Employment Law Subject Matter Expert/Legal Writer and Editor, CalChamber