Labor and Employment Law Updates Starting January 1, 2015

There were a multitude of changes made to California labor and employment laws that are set to be in effect on January 1, 2015 (unless noted otherwise). The following is a list the updated laws that you should be aware of:

LEGAL PROCEDURE

AB 2617: No Mandatory Arbitration of Hate Crimes

Under this law, an employer cannot require any person or business to sign a mandatory arbitration agreement that waives his/her/its right to sue under the Ralph Civil Rights Act (prohibiting violence or threats of violence based on various personal or political identities) or the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act (prohibiting interference by force or threat of violence with another’s federal or state constitutional or statutory rights). Furthermore, businesses cannot refuse to contract with others who refuse to waive these rights.

AB 802: Arbitration is Less Confidential

AB 802 amends Section 1281.96 of the Code of Civil Procedure. This law requires large-scale arbitration providers to collect and publish certain details about consumer arbitration proceedings. These were previously confidential. The details must be in a consumer-friendly format and easily accessible on the arbitration providers’ website. Details that must be in the report include: presence of an arbitration clause, pre-designation of an arbitration provider, if a non-consumer party was involved, the nature of the dispute, prevailing party, number of arbitrations and mediations, consumer’s attorney, arbitration timeline, disposition of the case, claim amount, attorney’s fees, equitable relief, and information about the arbitrator.

AB 1723: Waiting Time Penalties May Be Included in Minimum Wage Violation Citations

This law expands the Labor Commissioner’s authority on citations. Currently, the Commissioner can impose a citation on the employer who paid, or caused the employee to be paid, less than the state minimum wage. AB 1723 would authorize the Commissioner to issue waiting time penalties to employers that willfully fail to timely pay any wages to an employee who is discharged or who quits. These wages can be continued for up to 30 days. It should be noted that this law does not create a new penalty, but introduces a new way of imposing it. Employers have the right to a hearing for the citation with a timely contest.

AB 2288: Child Labor Protection Act Damages

Under the Child Labor Protection Act of 2014, violators of this Act will be susceptible to broader penalties. The Act would provide treble damages to an individual who was “discharged, threatened with discharge, demoted, suspended, retaliated against, subjected to an adverse action, or in any other manner discriminated against in the terms of conditions of his or her employment” because the individual filed a claim or civil action alleging employment law violations that arose while the individual was a minor. Whether the individual filed the action before or after he or she turned 18 is not significant.

POLICIES

Local Minimum Wage Ordinances

Employers should take note of new local minimum wage ordinances. Sacramento has already required a $9 per hour minimum since July 2, 2014. This rate will rise to $10 per hour starting January 1, 2016 under AB 10.

In Oakland, Measure FF increases minimum wage from $9 to $12.25 per hour starting March. San Francisco’s Proposition J raises the minimum wage to $12.25 per hour on May 1, 2015 and increases gradually until it hits $15 per hour on July 1, 2018.

AB 1522: Sick Leave

AB 1522, otherwise known as the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, provides that an employee who works in California for 30 or more days in a year is entitled to an accrual of paid sick leave starting July 1, 2015. The employee may begin using the paid leave after 90 days of employment, but any accrued leave does not need to be paid at termination or separation of employment. There are ambiguities in the law regarding caps to this paid sick leave benefit that are still open to interpretation. For more information about AB 1522 and paid-time off (PTO) exceptions to this law, click here.

Labor Code section 2810.5: Paid Sick Leave Posting

The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) is requiring employers to include information about an employee’s right to paid sick leave in the “Notice to Employee,” which is a form required for all California nonexempt employees. While employers are not required to provide paid sick leave until July 1, 2015, this notice must be used starting January 1, 2015.

AB 2053: Employers Must Provide “Abusive Conduct” Training

This law, often referred to as the “anti-bullying” law, requires employers that are already required to provide sexual harassment training to supervisors to additionally provide training on “abusive conduct.” “Abusive conduct” is defined as verbal or physical conduct that a “reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests.” The law does not detail what is to be included in the training or how long the training should be.

AB 326: E-mail for Workplace Safety Reports

Under this law, employers are now able to e-mail reports of a serious work-related injury, illness, or death to the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. Other injuries must be reported within 5 days if they result in lost time beyond the date of injury or illness or require treatment that is more than first aid. There is a $5,000 penalty for failing to provide a timely report of the incident.

SB 855: Companionship Services Covered Under FLSA

The Fair Labor Standards Act is a federal law that establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor standards for full and part time workers. This coverage was extended to “domestic service” workers, but exempted casual babysitters and workers who provide “companionship services” from these protections. The definition of “companionship services” has been altered to mean the “fellowship” and “protection” for elderly people or people with an illness, injury, or disability who require assistance in caring for themselves.

AB 2536: Emergency Rescue Personnel Allowed to Take Time Off for Emergency Duty

This law expands the list of eligible personnel who can take protected time off for emergency duty to emergency rescue personnel. Employers will be prohibited from discharging these employees for taking time off to perform their duties as a volunteer firefighter, reserve peace officer, emergency rescue personnel, or an officer, employee, or member of a disaster medical response entity sponsored or requested by the state. Health care providers (as defined previously) must alert their employers of their status and when they are deployed for emergency duty.

SB 1087: Farm Labor Contractors Mandated to Provide Sexual Harassment Prevention Trainings

This law requires farm labor contractors to provide sexual harassment training for its supervisory and nonsupervisory employees. Supervisor employees will undergo the training yearly, whereas nonsupervisory employees will receive the training upon hire and every two years after. The law also outlines the contents of the training, as well as restricts the granting of licenses to farm labor contractors who has engaged in sexual harassment.

PROTECTIONS

AB 1897: Shared Liability for Companies That Subcontract Work

This bill prevents companies from escaping liability when outsourcing general labor to low-paying staffing firms. When these firms ignore workplace laws, the client employer will share all civil legal responsibility and liability for paying wages to workers. Additionally, the client employer will also be unable to shift legal responsibility to the labor contractor when there are workplace safety violations.

AB 1443: Anti-Discrimination Protects for Volunteers and Interns

AB 1443 amends the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and extends its anti-discrimination and harassment protections to volunteers and unpaid interns. Previously, these protections were only expressly available to those who were in programs that “led to employment.” Additionally, these protections will extend to the “training” or “other terms or treatment” of volunteers and unpaid interns, and not just the selection or termination process.

AB 1660: No Discrimination for Undocumented Driver’s Licenses

This law makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against persons who hold undocumented driver’s licenses and can provide sufficient proof of identity and California residency. Furthermore, employers may not request driver’s licenses unless it is required by law or required by the employer and the employer’s requirement is permitted by the law. Driver’s license information must be treated as private and confidential.

AB 2751: Immigration Related Protections

This law prevents employers from threatening to file or filing a false report or complaint with any state or federal agency on the basis of immigration status. Furthermore, an employer may not discriminate or retaliate against employees who update their personal information “based on a lawful change of name, social security number, or federal employment authorization document.”

AB 1792: No Discrimination Against Medi-Cal Recipients

Under this law, employers are prohibited from discrimination and retaliation against employees receiving public assistance (i.e., Medi-Cal). Employers are defined as individuals or organizations with more than 100 employees that receive Medi-Cal.