New California Laws Effecting California Businesses in 2017

LAW AND FORUM CHOICE IN EMPLOYMENT CONTRACTS

Law: SB1241

Employees who primarily work and reside in California cannot be required by employers to enter agreements that would put their claims in a non-California forum or generally litigate claims under law of another jurisdiction. Effective Jan. 1.

What it means: In a legal dispute between employee and employer, what happens in California has to stay in California. The bill forbids adjudication outside of California, including arbitration, for a claim arising in California.

With SB1241, a Texas-based company, for example, can no longer hold a California employee to the noncompetition rule or law in an employment contract that is based on Texas law.


WAGE DISCRIMINATION PROTECTIONS COVER RACE, ETHNICITY, PRIOR SALARY

Laws: AB1676 and SB1063

Both bills are amendments to the state’s Fair Pay Act.

AB1676 says an opposite-sex employee’s prior salary alone cannot justify a disparity in compensation for equal work on jobs which require equal skill. It takes prior salary away from other bona fide reasons giving an opposite-sex employee lower pay, such as education, training or experience.

SB1063 expands the Fair Pay Act to race and ethnicity as well as gender.


PROTECTIONS FOR VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, STALKING, SEXUAL ASSAULT

Law: AB2337

What it says: Employers are required to inform workers who are victims of domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault of their existing rights to take time off work for a variety of services, medical treatment, counseling and safety planning. Unscheduled absences due to those circumstances cannot be punished if the employee provides certification in a reasonable amount of time. Effective July 1, 2017.

What it means: Workplace notices at businesses with 25 or more employees will need to be updated soon.


IMMIGRATION DOCUMENTATION, UNFAIR PRACTICES

Law: SB1001

What it says: Applies to state law existing federal law that, among other items, makes it unlawful for an employer to request more or different immigration documents than required by law, or to refuse documents that “on their face reasonably appear to be genuine.”

What it means: Before this law, the issue of complying with immigration document requirements was purely a federal matter.  This bill allows employees to litigate these issues in state court.


JUVENILE CRIMINAL HISTORY AND JOB APPLICATIONS

Law: AB1843

What it says: Potential employers cannot ask an applicant about information concerning past involvement in juvenile court, including adjudication or court disposition.

What it means: The law adds juvenile court outcomes to existing California law that prohibit employers from asking workers or applicants about an adult arrest that did not result in a conviction, a court referral to a diversion program or a matter that has been expunged or sealed. It does not include applicants or workers who are “under the process” of juvenile court proceedings. There are exceptions regarding health worker records for both adult and juvenile court records. Employers need to immediately review and  revise their employment applications.

CALIFORNIA MINIMUM WAGE

Effective January 1, 2017 the minimum wage in California goes up to $10.50 an hour. However, employers need to know that individual counties, such as Los Angeles, have higher minimum wage rates and the rates can depend on how many employees an employer has.  In Los Angeles County, effective July 1, 2017, if an employer has more than 25 employees the minimum wage rate will be $12.00 an hour. If an employer has 25 or fewer employees the minimum wage will be $10.50 an hour.

SINGLE-USER RESTROOMS ALL-GENDER DESIGNATION

AB1732 says all single-user restrooms meant for public access must by March 1 be identified as an all-gender toilet facility.


MINIMUM WAGE DISPUTE BOND

AB2899 Employers appealing an unfavorable Labor Commission ruling for wage and hour violations must post a bond that includes the assessed amount of unpaid wages. The bond amount, which excludes penalties, will be forfeited to the employee if the employer does not prevail and does not pay the owed amount within 10 days of the case’s conclusion.

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