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New Year, New Laws for Employment Lawyers

464956543The following is a guest blog post by Tyler M. Paetkau, a partner with Hartnett, Smith & Paetkau in Redwood City. Tyler represents employers in all aspects of labor and employment law. He’s a frequent author and speaker on labor and employment law issues, and the former Chair of the Executive Committee of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the State Bar of California.

The California legislature has enacted several new laws that will affect every employer and employment lawyer in 2015. Here’s an overview of some of the key statutory changes you need to know about.

No discrimination for lack of a California driver’s license. AB 1660 prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants and employees without valid California driver’s licenses. See Govt C §12926, Veh C §§1653.5, 12800.7, 12801.9. Under current law, the DMV has to issue a driver’s license to anyone who can’t submit satisfactory proof that his or her presence in the US is authorized under federal law but who meets all other qualifications for licensure and provides satisfactory proof of his or her identity and California residency. The new law makes it a violation of the Fair Housing and Employment Act (FEHA) for an employer to discriminate against anyone with such a license. The new law also amends the FEHA to specify that discrimination based on national origin includes discrimination based on having a driver’s license granted under these provisions.

Ensure that managers and human resources personnel don’t insist on a valid California driver’s license or discriminate against applicants and employees who have these alternative driver’s licenses.

Expanded bases and remedies for retaliation claims. AB 2751 takes current law prohibiting retaliation against an employee or applicant for engaging in protected conduct further, by

  • requiring the $10,000 penalty be awarded to the employee(s) who suffered the violation;
  • defining unfair immigration-related practice to include threatening to file or filing a false report/complaint with any state or federal agency; and
  • prohibiting employers from discriminating, retaliating, or taking any adverse action against an employee for updating personal information based on a lawful name change, social security number, or federal employment authorization document.

Clarification of rest break compensation. SB 1360 makes it clear that a legally mandated rest or recovery period must be counted as hours worked, for which there can’t be a deduction from wages.

Reminder about state minimum wage increases. On July 1, 2014, the hourly minimum wage for non-exempt employees went up a dollar to $9.00/hour. It will increase again on January 1, 2016 to $10.00/hour. Lab C §1182.12. This increase also impacts exempt employees because most of the California wage exemptions require that exempt employees earn a monthly salary equivalent to no less than two times the state minimum wage; consider a compensation review of exempt employees to ensure compliance.

Mandatory paid sick leave starting July 1, 2015. Under the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, which will be effective on July 1, 2015, all California employers must allow employees who have worked 30 or more days in California within a year of their employment to accrue paid sick leave.

Some of the significant aspects to sick the leave law include:

  • No exemption for small employers or part-time and temporary employees.
  • Paid sick days must accrue at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, but may be capped at 48 hours (or six 8-hour work days).
  • Accrued but unused sick days must carry over into the following year (subject to the 48 hour/six-day accrual cap).
  • Employees are not entitled to be paid for accrued but unused sick days on termination of employment, but must have unused sick leave reinstated if rehired within one year.
  • Employers must provide written notice of employees’ available paid sick leave.
  • Employers must document and retain for at least three years records of employee paid sick leave usage and accrual.
  • Employers must provide new employees notice of their entitlement to paid sick leave and their right to file a complaint for violations, as well as post a workplace notice from the Labor Commissioner on the Act. Note: the posting and notice requirements are effective January 1, 2015.
  • There is a rebuttable presumption of unlawful retaliation for any adverse employment action occurring within 30 days of an employee engaging in certain protected activity under the Act.

Employers with existing sick leave or paid time off policies don’t have to provide additional leave, as long as their policies: (1) already comply with the law’s accrual, usage, and carry over requirements; and (2) provide no less than 24 hours of paid sick leave annually. But all California employers should update their sick leave and record-retention policies (including their employee handbooks) to ensure compliance with the Act.

For practical advice and information to help you handle any workplace issue your clients may face, turn to CEB’s Advising California Employers and Employees. Also check out CEB’s Drafting Employment Documents for California Employers with its many helpful checklists, forms, and sample documents. And CEB’s program Employment Law Practice: Year in Review is available On Demand.

Other CEBblog™ posts of interest:

© The Regents of the University of California, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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