Napa and Sonoma County Fires: Employer Resources and Obligations
In light of the devastating fires in Napa and Sonoma Counties, employers should be aware of some available resources and other obligations required by law. We have compiled some information regarding available benefits, employee pay, leaves, and other information Napa and Sonoma County employers may find useful, below.
- Unemployment Benefits Available
- Disaster Unemployment Assistance
A Major Disaster Declaration was approved by President Trump as of October 10, 2017. This means that employees unable to work due to the fires can apply for Disaster Unemployment Assistance. This benefit is available for up to 26 weeks for employees impacted. More information can be found here.
- Partial Claim
If there is lack of work for no more than two weeks, employees can apply for partial benefits. In these circumstances, the employer should fill out the Notice of Reduced Earnings (DE2063) to provide to employees so that the employee may submit their claim for benefits. More information regarding a partial claim can be found here.
If there will be no work for more than two weeks, then employees should submit an ordinary application for unemployment benefits rather than a partial claim.
- Wages Notice
If the employer will have 10 or more employees out of work the employer may fill out a Wages Notice which can simplify the benefit application process. The form can be completed online, printed, and mailed or faxed to the EDD. The Wages Notice form is DE 4806.
Employers unable to furnish work to employees due to a natural disaster are not obligated to pay non-exempt employees. However, exempt employees still must be paid their full salary for weeks in which any work is furnished. If no work is furnished or completed by the exempt employee for a full workweek, then the employer does not have to pay the full weekly salary to those employees
Unless an employee requires leave due to qualifying physical or mental injuries and illnesses or disabilities, to the employee or certain family members, there are no leave obligations for employers.
In light of the devastation of the Napa and Sonoma fires, employers may choose to exceed their obligations under the law by permitting employees to take leave paid or unpaid, and/or use leave banks despite no serious health condition impacting the employee or certain eligible family members. This leave can be granted for employees impacted by the disaster to rebuild or for those volunteering to assist in disaster relief efforts.
4. Provide a Safe Workplace
Employers remain obligated to furnish a safe and healthful place of employment and may not require or permit an employee to be in any place of employment that is not safe and healthful. Employers open during the fires and its aftermath should provide appropriate protective equipment, such as respirator masks, to employees to ensure their safety.
5. Emergency Action Plan
The need for an emergency action plan is highlighted in times of disaster, and it is required by law to be a part of the Injury and Illness Prevention Program. Employers with 10 or more employees must have the emergency action plan in writing. Cal OSHA has guidance on developing this plan on here.
6. Payroll Tax Extension
Employers can request an extension of up to 60 days to file state payroll reports and/or deposit state payroll taxes. A written request for the extension must be received within 60 days of the original delinquent date of the payment or return.
7. Reconstruct Payroll Records
Employers that lost payroll records due to the fire should reconstruct the records in order to file quarterly and/or yearly payroll tax reports. Employers can make reasonable estimates based upon the best information available, and the EDD can provide copies of previous reports on which to base the estimates.