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SB 1044 – Prevents Employers From Taking Or Threatening Adverse Action Against An Employee And From Preventing An Employee From Accessing A Communications Device During An Emergency Condition
Senate Bill 1044 (SB 1044) adds a new chapter to the Labor Code entitled Workers’ Rights in Emergencies. SB 1044 takes effect on January 1, 2023.
SB 1044 prevents employers from taking or threatening adverse action against any employee because the employee refused to report to or left a workplace or worksite within an area affected by an emergency condition because the employee has a reasonable belief that the workplace or worksite is unsafe. SB 1044 requires employees to notify their employers, when feasible, 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. When prior notice is not feasible, employees are required to notify their employer as soon as possible of the emergency condition that required the employee to leave or refuse to report to the workplace or worksite after leaving or refusing to report.
An “emergency condition,” means either “conditions of disaster or extreme peril to the safety of persons or property at the workplace or worksite caused by natural forces or a criminal act” or “an order to evacuate a workplace, a worksite, a worker’s home, or the school of a worker’s child due to natural disaster or a criminal act.” An “emergency condition” does not include a health pandemic. “A reasonable belief that the workplace or worksite is unsafe” means that a reasonable person, under the circumstances known to the employee at the time, would conclude there is a real danger of death or serious injury if that person enters or remains on the premises.
This prohibition does not apply to certain categories of employees. As relevant to independent and private preschools, K-12 schools, colleges, and universities, the following categories of employees are excluded:
- An employee is required by law to render aid or remain on the premises in case of an emergency.
- A transportation employee participating directly in emergency evacuations during an active evacuation.
- An employee whose primary duties include assisting members of the public to evacuate in case of an emergency.
SB 1044 also prohibits employers from preventing any employee from accessing the employee’s 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 during an emergency condition.
SB 1044 does not 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.
(SB 1044 adds Section 1139 to the Labor Code.)