10 Big Changes to California’s Labor Laws that Every Employee Needs to Know

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The California Legislature passed multiple bills in 2014, substantially revising and augmenting employee rights in the workplace. The changes to the law that take effect in 2015 are outlined below.

1. INCREASES IN MINIMUM WAGE

The minimum wage in California is currently $9.00 per hour, and will increase again to $10.00 on January 1, 2016. Some cities have enacted even higher minimums. San Francisco ($11.05) Oakland ($12.25 beginning March 2, 2015), and San Diego ($9.75).

2. REQUIREMENT FOR PAID SICK LEAVE

The “Healthy Workplace, Healthy Families Act” (July 1, 2015) provides that employees who work 30 or more days within a year from commencement of their employment will earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave for every thirty (30) hours worked. Employees become entitled to their sick leave beginning on the ninetieth (90th) day of employment. However, an employer may limit an employee’s use of paid sick days to 24 hours—or three (3) days—in each calendar year. The new law applies to all employees who work in California for 30 or more days in a year. AB-1522 defines an “employer” as any person employing another under any appointment or contract of hire” regardless of the number of employees, and covers full-time, part-time, seasonal, or temporary employees. Details of the legislation can be found here.

3. AB 2288: CHILD LABOR PROTECTION ACT OF 2014

There are three major components to the law: The first, is that it automatically tolls (prolongs) the statute of limitations for claims arising for minors until that minor has reached the age of majority, which in California is eighteen (18) years of age. The second facet of the new law, is that, in addition to other remedies available, the statute includes a provision for treble damages for “an individual who is discharged, threatened with discharge, demoted, suspended, retaliated against, subjected to an adverse action, or in any other manner discriminated against in the terms or conditions of his or her employment.” Lastly, it contains a provision that any such violations involving minors twelve and under, shall be subject to a civil penalty in an amount not less than twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) and not exceeding fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) for each violation.

The full text of the new law can be found here.

4. JOINT CIVIL LIABILITY FOR STAFFING AGENCIES & LABOR CONTRACTORS

Assembly Bill 1897 addresses and further clarifies the legal redress responsibility for e,ployers and labor who have committed various wage & hour violations. It imposes shared civil legal responsibility and liability on client employers having 25 or more workers for any of a list of wage-and-hour violations committed under the auspices of the labor contractor for the employees supplied pursuant to the contract with the client employer. Employees should take note, that, if you believe you have not been properly paid minimum wage, overtime or other compensation due you, you may seek redress from both the employer and the labor contractor equally. For those who may have suffered an on-the-job injury and found that there is no workers’ compensation policy in place, you may pursue an administrative claim or civil action against the client employer, labor contractor or both.

The full text of the law can be found here.

5. OSHA REGULATIONS– AB 1634: ABATEMENT OF SAFETY VIOLATIONS

This law will require employers immediately to remedy all serious or willful safety violations for which it has been put on notice, regardless of intent to appeal, unless the employer can demonstrate that a stay or suspension of that remedy will not adversely affect the health and safety of employees. The bill is designed to prevent employees from having to work in unsafe conditions during the appeals process. If you are an employee who has reported unsafe conditions at a business where these hazards were present on the job site, you should know you are protected from retaliation by State and Federal Whistleblower laws.

6. AB 2751 – IMMIGRANT STATUS OF EMPLOYEE, RETALIATION & THREATS

This bill bolsters existing laws protecting immigrant workers from retaliatory acts by their employers. In cases where an employee has been the victim of adverse action for reporting violations committed by their employers, e.g. threats, intimidation as to immigrant status, or retaliatory firing, the law provides civil penalties against the employer, of up to $10,000 per violation. This change would require those penalties to be awarded directly to the employee or employees who suffered the violation.

The full text of the bill can be found here.

7. DISCRIMINATION AND SEXUAL HARASSMENT PROTECTION FOR INTERNS

The enactment of California Bill AB 1443 is a step toward recognizing the employee status of interns, most of whom fall well outside the permissible framework that allows limited use of unpaid interns. Although the bill was enacted too late for employees like Lihuan Wang, the overworked New York intern who was taken back to her employer’s hotel room and attacked by him under the guise of a “meeting to discuss the job,” this law is definitely a step in the right direction. Following Ms. Yang’s story, the legislatures of many states have reacted to close the loophole that has allowed employers to walk away without repercussions when they engage in such behavior.

In California, the passing of AB 1443 [https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201320140AB1443]will expands FEHA protection against discrimination and harassment to unpaid interns and volunteers. Please note: The law does not change the rules regarding the very limited exceptions that allow employers to utilize unpaid interns. For the Department of Labor’s checklist on when it is lawful for an employer to utilize unpaid interns, and guides when intern workers are entitled to be paid minimum wage, click here. [http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.pdf] If you believe you are an unpaid intern who is entitled to wages, call one of the employment attorneys at Lazear Mack at (510) 735-6316.

Here are 5 steps to protect yourself against discrimination and harassment.

8. CHANGES TO ARBITRATION AGREEMENTS

Two Laws, AB2617 and AB 802 were passed with the aim of balancing the scales in favor of persons who are required to sign waivers when executing contracts for goods or services in California. The first bill aims to promote transparency in the arbitration process, by requiring the publishing of arbitration outcomes, so that consumers and the general public will have access to that information as they seek redress in their own cases. Such transparency in arbitration has long been fought by corporations seeking to keep costs low by cloaking their dealings in a mask of secrecy, preventing others in a similar situation from finding out just how often they have been accused of various wrongdoings. This law would require major arbitration providers such as JAMS and AAA to publish at least quarterly on their websites detailed information concerning consumer matters they have arbitrated, and to make the report accessible on the private arbitration company’s Internet Web site, as specified.

The second bill, AB 2617, seeks to prevent the contractual waiver (through binding arbitration) of claims revolving around hate crimes. AB 2617 appears to prohibit pre-dispute agreements between employers and independent contractors that include waivers of claims under the Ralph and Bane Civil Rights Acts, Civil Code sections 51.7 and 52.1. These are civil rights laws prohibiting hate crimes and violence based on protected criteria such as age, ancestry, color, disability, sex, etc. The new law expressly applies to arbitration agreements that are entered into, modified or extended after January 1, 2015. According to this law, a person cannot be required to sign a mandatory arbitration agreement that waives his or her right to sue for violence or hate crimes. It prohibits mandatory, pre-dispute arbitration agreements in contracts for the provision of goods or services, to the extent an individual is required to waive the right to bring such a civil action. There is some potential conflict with Federal Law, and therefore the validity of this law will certainly be challenged in the courts.

The full text of the law is here.

9. WAITING PERIODS FOR INSURANCE

California Senate Bill 1034 officially prohibits health insurance policies from imposing any waiting or affiliation period upon any individual. Employers providing health insurance are prohibited from applying a waiting period for medical insurance that goes beyond 90 days after the start of employment.

The full text of the bill is here.

10. MANDATORY SEXUAL HARASSMENT TRAINING FOR SUPERVISORS

California’s harassment training requirements set the standard for the rest of the country; the state along with Maine and Connecticut, are the only three that mandate workplace harassment training. The law requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide two (2) hours of sexual harassment prevention training to all supervisors, and should now include training for “abusive conduct,” which is an effort to curtail the disturbing rise of reported “workplace bullying.”

Have you experienced sexual harassment at work? Click here for more information.

Lazear Mack, LLP
Employment Law Attorneys
436 14th Street, Suite 1117
Oakland, CA

510-735-6316

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