SACRAMENTO – Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, said that she will be introducing a measure that seeks to protect small businesses from unnecessary fines due to the unemployment insurance auditing process in the wake of the coronavirus.

“Small businesses are feeling some of the harshest consequences from the shelter-in-place orders in the wake of coronavirus,” said Melendez. “We as lawmakers now need to make sure they are not frivolously targeted by civil actions, penalties and fines that result from the unintended consequences of employees filing for unemployment benefits.”

Melendez is currently engaged in a May 12 runoff election for the 28th Senate District seat. Her challenger is Democrat Elizabeth Romero, an assistant vice chancellor at UC Riverside.

Gov. Gavin Newsom called for the special election following the November resignation of Sen. Jeff Stone, R-La Quinta, to take a post with the U.S. Department of Labor. The winner will serve the remaining two years of Stone’s term, which expires in 2022.

Assembly Bill 2457 will be amended when the Legislature returns from the coronavirus recess to accomplish the following: (1) It will prohibit a claimant for unemployment benefits from also suing their employers under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) at the same time, thereby protecting small businesses from double jeopardy; (2) Prohibits the Labor Commissioner and the Employment Development Department from using an employment audit for any other purpose than for the determination of an unemployment claim; and (3) Prohibits the Labor Commissioner from assessing any penalties or fines against a small business under the misclassification provisions of AB 5.

“AB 5 has not only been a complete disaster for the people who were self-employed and now seeking help, but for the small businesses who are now at risk of audits, fines and lawsuits,” Melendez said. “I agree with the Governor who said ‘So often, we take them for granted, even in the best of times. Right now, they have been devastated.’  I hope the Governor and my democrat colleagues will join with me to really help the backbone of our local economies to get them back on their feet.”

Assemblywoman Melissa A. Melendez represents the 67th Assembly District, which includes the communities of Lake Elsinore, Canyon Lake, Murrieta, Menifee, Wildomar and a portion of Hemet. It also includes the Riverside County unincorporated areas of Lake Mathews, Good Hope, Nuevo, and Winchester. Follow her on Twitter: @asmMelendez


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