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California allows more exemptions from landmark labor law

Lorena Gonzalez
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, speaks in 2019 at the Capitol in Sacramento at a rally calling for passage of her measure to limit when companies can label workers as independent contractors.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

California is exempting two dozen more professions from a landmark labor law designed to treat more people like employees instead of contractors, under a bill that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Friday.

The amendments, which take effect immediately, end what lawmakers said were unworkable limits on services provided by freelance writers and still photographers, photojournalists and freelance editors and newspaper cartoonists, among others. It includes safeguards to make sure they are not replacing current employees.

The new measure also exempts various artists and musicians, along with some involved in the insurance and real estate industries.

Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego, who primarily wrote the original measure, said the new law “strikes a balance and continues to provide protections for workers against misclassification that had previously gone unchecked for decades under the old rules.”

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The law that took effect this year was mainly aimed at ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft, which are fighting it in court and in a measure that voters will consider on the November ballot.

Unlike contractors, workers who are deemed employees are entitled to the minimum wage and benefits including overtime, sick leave and expense reimbursement.

California lawmakers embraced a plan to slightly loosen the state’s year-old law limiting the use of independent contractors.

But numerous contractors have said they were included in a legal definition that could end their livelihood.

Gonzalez also negotiated the additional professions that are now exempted, a role that Republican lawmakers have said leaves the state in the position of effectively picking winners and losers. She said the new version “makes a clear distinction between employer-employee relationships and professionals that run their own independent businesses.”

The new exemptions include fine artists, freelance writers, translators, editors, content contributors, advisors, narrators, cartographers, producers, copy editors, illustrators and newspaper cartoonists who work under written contracts.

California’s Legislature adjourned with some lawmakers and activists frustrated that more was not done to address deep troubles facing the state’s residents.

It adds exemptions for musicians with single-engagement live performances, those involved with sound recordings or musical compositions, insurance inspectors, real estate appraisers and inspectors, manufactured housing salespersons, youth sports coaches, people engaged by an international exchange visitor program and competition judges. It also exempts those engaged in consulting services or animal services, along with landscape architects and professional foresters.

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Newsom has not yet acted on a second related bill that would extend a one-year exemption for newspaper companies that has let them continue to treat newspaper delivery people as contractors.


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