As our calendar apps tick into 2022, a host of new employment laws are going into effect within the great state of California, and many of them will inevitably impact the film industry in minor or major ways.
In this post, we’ll review the new laws most relevant to professional filmmaking and provide insight on how they might affect producers, their crews, and the productions that bring them together.
This post is no substitute for the legal consultation of a licensed lawyer, but it’s designed as a basic guide to help you spot red flags and troubleshoot your production operations.
Let’s dig in.
Senate Bill Number 331 amends Section 1001 of California’s Code of Civil Procedure and Section 12964.5 of the state’s Government Code to further prohibit employers from requiring employees to sign non-disclosure agreements or other documents that would prevent the employee from disclosing factual information about unlawful acts in the workplace.
In other words, SB 331 prohibits employers from using NDAs or other similar agreements to prevent employees from reporting information about unlawful activity at work. Such unlawful activity might include (but is not limited to) sexual harassment, discrimination, or retaliation against an employee for reporting such activity.
SB 331 requires that producers and production companies make a slight alteration to their current NDA policy. If your current NDA template restricts signees from disclosing information, you must amend its language to specifically state that the document does not- in any way- prevent signees from disclosing information about activity that they have reason to believe is unlawful.
With that small change, your NDA should be good to go, but always consult a lawyer.
Critically, the restrictions set by SB 331 only go into effect for agreements entered on or after January 1, 2022. Previous agreements should require no reevaluation, provided that the documents followed all legal stipulations required at the time of signing.
Senate Bill Number 657 is an act to add Section 1207 to the state Labor Code. Section 1207 specifies that, in any situation within which an employer is legally obligated to physically post or display information at a workplace, the employer may also choose to distribute that information to their employees via email.
Notably, however, information distribution via email does not negate or otherwise eliminate the employer’s obligation to physically display that same information.
SB 657 does not fundamentally change a producer, production company, or production facility’s obligation to physically display mandatory workplace postings. However, the bill does create an opportunity through which a production may notify employees of their state-directed workers’ rights in a clear, verifiable manner.
In essence, SB 657 enables employers to create a digital paper trail proving that employees have been adequately notified of their workers’ rights. This is a minor but potentially useful protection for producers in the event of a lawsuit as well as a boon to employees who may not otherwise be aware of their own legal privileges. While physical postings are still required, the information contained within those postings may now also be added to a standard digital startwork packet along with any other mandatory startwork materials.
Assembly Bill Number 654 is an act to amend Sections 6325 and 6409.6 of the California Labor Code. The bill modifies the length of time within which an employer must report a COVID-19 outbreak to their local public health agency, expanding the time from under 48 hours to “within 48 hours or one business day, whichever is later.”
In practice, this relaxes the urgency of an employer’s reporting obligations over weekends and holidays.
Additionally, AB 654 further clarifies which employees must be notified of COVID-19-related benefits after an outbreak. Previously, employers were obligated to provide notice to employees who may have been in contact with a person who may have had COVID-19. Now, AD 654 specifies that employers must provide notice to employees “who were on the premises at the same worksite as the qualifying individual within the infectious period[.]”
AB 654 went into effect immediately at the time of signing as an urgency statute but is set to repeal its own provisions on January 1, 2023.
AB 654 impacts state-mandated COVID-19 protocols on set the same as it affects those of other employer types. Productions may now modify their reporting practices to better match those mandated by the law. A qualified COVID-19 safety officer can help your production safely navigate these and other related hurdles.
Senate Bill Number 762 adds and amends several sections in the California Civil Code and the California Code of Civil Procedure to clarify the invoicing and payment processes associated with employer-employee arbitrations.
SB 762 requires arbitration providers to provide invoices for fees and costs before an arbitration can proceed to all parties of the arbitration on the same day and by the same means with the invoiced amounts issued as due upon receipt unless explicitly stated otherwise.
SB 762 further stipulates that a failure to pay these arbitration invoices in a timely fashion by an employer may result in a number of penalties, including the loss of the right to compel arbitration, the possibility of a claim being shifted from arbitration to a relevant court, and compelled fines in the form of attorneys’ fees or other costs.
In effect, the bill creates significant consequences for employers who fail to pay arbitration fees on time.
SB 762 has little impact on the day-to-day operations of a set or production company, but it may have significant consequences on the legal underpinnings of production entities and how they structure their contractual obligations.
The bill further elevates timely arbitration payments to a high priority, in the event- of course, that a contractual dispute enters arbitration in the first place.
To alleviate pressure associated with such payments, production entities should seek advice from their legal counsel to see how arbitration agreements might be structured to address future payment timeframes before they become an issue.
Assembly Bill Number 1003 is an act to add 487m to the California Penal Code, the establishment of which will make intentional wage theft on the part of an employer criminally punishable past a certain threshold.
Specifically, the new law states that “the intentional theft of wages in an an amount greater than nine hundred fifty dollars ($950) from any one employee, or two thousand three hundred fifty dollars ($2,350) in the aggregate from two or more employees, by an employer in any consecutive 12-month period may be punishable as grand theft.”
In the state of California, an offense categorized as grand theft may result in either misdemeanor or felony charges.
For its purposes, AB 1003 expands its definition of “employee” to include independent contractors and expands its definition of “employer” to include hiring entities of independent contractors. The bill also authorizes “wages, gratuities, or other compensation” subject to an intentional wage theft prosecution to be recoverable by the plaintiff (i.e. the employee) as restitution.
Intentional wage theft was already considered an unlawful employment activity within the previous bounds of the law. As such, AB 1003 should not affect the practices of producers and production entities that currently operate in good legal standing.
AB 1003 does, however, provide employees with new tools and leverage for self-defense.
Senate Bill Number 606 adds and amends several sections within the California Labor Code to create new divisions and criteria for violations under California Division of Occupational Safety and Health regulations.
Violations can now fall under the new classifications of “willful and egregious” and “enterprise-wide.” As the classification titles suggest, these new classifications cover violations that are particularly negligent, destructive, or widespread. Thus, they carry significant financial consequences that are designed to mount quickly.
Perhaps more than anything, SB 606 is further encouragement for producers, production companies, and other production personnel to practice appropriate due diligence when it comes to set safety in its many forms. Producers should be aware that SB 606 is explicitly designed to make intentional or flagrant safety violations highly punishable and, therefore, even more highly undesirable.
SB 606 reinforces the idea that safety should always come first.
For more information on best set safety practices, check out our guide to using AMPTP Safety Bulletins.
As of January 1st, 2022, California has raised its state-mandated minimum wage to $14.00 per hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees and $15.00 for employers with 26 or more employees. Productions should double-check their city and county labor laws with the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency to make sure all contract pay rates also meet any additional or modified local requirements.
To keep up with minimum wage requirements in any part of the U.S., check out our complete list of overtime and minimum wage laws by state.
Producers don’t really have time to worry about compliance. But with so many laws, it’s kind of hard not to.
One solution? Let tax and payroll professionals handle your filings, so you can focus on what you actually like to do.
Wrapbook is a one-stop entertainment payroll and insurance solution that empowers you to save time, money, and stress when paying your crew and other employees.
But it’s not all about saving time. When you’re not bogged down by compliance concerns, yes you can move faster, but now you can move faster with a much clearer head and peace of mind. You can rest easy knowing you won’t be hit with any preventable or surprising costs later.
The above list provides a basic summary of new California labor laws and how they might affect producers in 2022. However, if you have concerns about managing your next production in accordance with labor laws in California or any other state, the best course of action is to seek direct advice from a qualified legal representative.
At Wrapbook, we pride ourselves on providing outstanding free resources to producers and their crews, but this post is for informational purposes only as of the date above. The content on our website is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for legal, accounting, or tax advice. You should consult with your own legal, accounting, or tax advisors to determine how this general information may apply to your specific circumstances.