By Camille Gustafson, Paul, Plevin, Sullivan & Connaughton
September 30th was the deadline for California Governor Jerry Brown to sign or veto any bills passed by the legislature this session. Here is a brief overview of the employment laws affecting California employers. Unless otherwise noted, the new laws will go into effect January 1, 2017.
The most significant laws for employers:
- SB 1063 by Senator Isadore Hall III (D-Compton) – Conditions of employment: wage differential: race or ethnicity. The Wage Equality Act of 2016 essentially adds race or ethnicity to the protections of the new California Fair Pay Act. California law will now prohibit an employer from paying employees less than employees of another race or ethnicity for substantially similar work. Like the Fair Pay Act, the Wage Equality Act shifts the burden to employers to prove wage differentials are not based on race or ethnicity.
- SB 1234 by Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) – Retirement savings accounts. This law creates a new retirement savings plan for the nearly seven million workers who do not have one. Workers who do not have a workplace retirement plan will automatically contribute 3% of wages to a new retirement account, the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Trust. Workers can change their contribution levels at any time or choose not to participate.
- AB 1676 by Assemblymember Nora Campos (D-San Jose) – Employers: wage discrimination. This law specifies that prior salary cannot, by itself, justify any disparity in compensation under the bona fide factor exception to California Fair Pay Act.
- AB 1843 by Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) – Applicants for employment: criminal history. This law prohibits an employer from asking an applicant for employment to disclose, or from utilizing as a factor in determining any condition of employment, information related to an arrest, detention, diversion, supervision, or court disposition that occurred while the person was subject to the process and jurisdiction of juvenile court law. This new law will require employers to update their employment application materials to insure that applicants are not asked to disclose juvenile criminal records.
- AB 2337 by Assemblymember Autumn R. Burke (D-Inglewood) – Employment protections: victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. This law requires employers to inform each employee of his or her rights to employment protections for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Employers must provide specific information in writing to new employees upon hire and to other employees upon request. The law requires the Labor Commissioner, on or before July 1, 2017, to develop a form an employer may elect to use to comply with these provisions. Employers are not required to comply with the notice of rights requirement until the commissioner posts the form.
- SB 1241 by Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont). Employment contracts: choice of law and forum. For contracts entered into, modified, or extended on or after January 1, 2017, this law prohibits an employer from requiring an employee who primarily resides and works in California to agree to a provision requiring the employee to adjudicate an employment claim outside of California or apply the law of another state to a controversy arising in California.
A partial list of other employment laws passed:
- AB 488 by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) – Employment discrimination. This law authorizes an individual employed under a special license in a nonprofit sheltered workshop, day program, or rehabilitation facility to bring an action for any form of harassment or discrimination. These individuals were previously excluded from the law.
- AB 908 by Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) – Paid Family Leave. Among other things, this law will remove the 7-day waiting period for temporary family disability benefit as of January 1, 2018.
- AB 1732 by Assemblymember Philip Y. Ting (D-San Francisco) – Single-user restrooms. This law requires, beginning March 1, 2017, all single-user toilet facilities in any business establishment to be identified as all-gender toilet facilities.
- AB 1926 by Assemblymember Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) – Public works: prevailing wage: apprentices. This law requires that when a contractor requests an apprentice to perform work on a public works project and requires compliance with certain pre-employment activities as a condition of employment, the apprentice be paid the prevailing rate for the time spent on any required pre-employment activity, including travel time to and from the activity, if any.
- AB 2503 by Assemblymember Jay P. Obernolte (R-Big Bear Lake) – Workers’ compensation: utilization review. This law requires a physician providing treatment to an injured worker to send any request for authorization for medical treatment to the claims administrator for the employer or insurer.
- AB 2532 by Assemblymember David S. Chiu (D-San Francisco) – Employment services: verification. The law repeals the Unemployment Insurance Code Section that requires entities providing employment services to verify individuals’ legal status or authorization to work prior to providing those services. This new law does not change any legal work eligibility requirements.
- SB 1001 by Senator Holly J. Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) – Employment: unfair practices. This law makes it unlawful for an employer to request more or different documents than are required under federal law, to refuse to honor documents tendered that on their face reasonably appear to be genuine, to refuse to honor documents or work authorization based upon the specific status or term of status that accompanies the authorization to work, or to re-investigate or re-verify an incumbent employee’s authorization to work.
- SB 1167 by Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) – Employment safety: indoor workers: heat regulations. This law provides that by January 1, 2019, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board will develop a heat illness and injury prevention standard applicable to indoor workers.
New laws for public employers:
- AB 1661 by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) – Local government: sexual harassment prevention training and education. This law requires local agency officials to receive sexual harassment prevention training and allows the agencies to require employees to receive sexual harassment prevention training.
- AB 1840 by Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson (D-Carson) – State agencies: interns and student assistants: hiring preference. This law requires state agencies, when hiring for internships and student assistant positions, give preference to homeless youth and formerly incarcerated youth.
- AB 1887 by Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell) – State government: discrimination: travel. This law prohibits a state agency from requiring any of its employees to travel to, or approving a request for state-funded or state-sponsored travel to, any state that has enacted a law that voids or repeals, or has the effect of voiding or repealing, existing state or local protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression or has enacted a law that authorizes or requires discrimination against same-sex couples or their families or on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
- AB 2393 by Assemblymember Nora Campos (D-San Jose) – School employees: sick leave: parental leave. This law provides that if a school district maintains a rule that credits certified employees at least 100 working days of sick leave paid at no less than 50% of his or her regular salary, when he or she has exhausted all available sick leave and continues to be absent from his or her duties on account of parental leave, the person would be compensated at no less than 50% of his or her regular salary for the remaining portion of parental leave.
- AB 2843 by Assemblymember Ed Chau (D-Arcadia) – Public record: employee contact information. This law extends the limitation on the disclosure of personal information to all employees of a public agency and extends the limitation to include personal cellular telephone numbers and birth dates.
- SB 294 by Senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) – Public employment: military service: credit. This law requires a public employer to inform a new employee at the time of hire of his or her rights to purchase service credit for certain active service periods.
- SB 1180 by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) – Public school employees: military veterans: leave of absence for illness or injury. This law provides additional leave of absence rights to disabled military veterans.
California’s Legislature had a busy session imposing new requirements and potential liabilities on employers. In light of last year’s Equal Pay Act and this year’s Wage Equality Act, perhaps the most important thing for employers to consider is conducting a comprehensive pay equity audit.