Remarkable Addition to California Employment Laws in 2015

The California Legislature was unusually active in last year sessions’ 2014. California Governor Jerry Brown signed numerous bills into law; few of them will grossly impact California employers. Significantly, California introduced mandatory paid sick live, created new “unfair immigration-related practices” and expanded potential liability for employers who use staffing agencies.  All of the new laws relating to employment are summarized below in brief and are effective as of January 1, 2015, unless otherwise noted.

  • AB 1522: Mandated Paid Sick Leave for California Employees –

The new law seeks to complement existing California City paid sick leave laws. The new law requires California employers to provide employees with one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.  There is no exemption for agriculture. Under the new law, employees can begin using their paid sick days on the 90th day of their employment for their own health condition or a family member’s health condition. A “Family member” is broadly defined to include spouse, registered domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild and sibling. Employers can limit an employee’s use of paid sick days to 24 hours or 3 days during each year of employment.  Employers are not required to pay unused accrued sick leave at the time of discharge.  However, employees that are rehired within one year from the date of separation are entitled to have their previously accrued but unused paid sick days reinstated. In addition, the new law prohibits discrimination or retaliation against employees who request or use paid sick leave and imposes new posting, notice and record-keeping obligations on employers. AB 1522 does not exclude small employers with a limited number of employees. Employers are defined expansively to include “any person employing another.”

  • AB 2751: Expansion of “unfair immigration-related practices” and clarification of discrimination –

This bill expands the definition of an “unfair immigration-related practice” to include threatening to file or filing a false report or complaint with any state or federal agency. Current law extends the protection only to reports filed with the police. The bill also clarifies that an employer can’t discriminate or retaliate against an employee who updates his or her personal information “based on a lawful change of name, social security number, or federal employment authorization document.” 

  • §  AB 1660: Discrimination against employees with undocumented drivers’ license –

AB 1660 makes it a violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) for an employer to discriminate against an individual because he/she holds or presents a driver’s license issued to undocumented persons who can submit satisfactory proof of identity and California residency. Such discriminatory actions will constitute national origin discrimination under FEHA. In 2013, Governor Brown signed AB 60 into law, which authorized the California Department of Motor Vehicles to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.  However, the law also made a violation of state law to discriminate against any person who possesses a driving privilege or “DP” license.  Western Growers and others in the employer community were concerned they could run afoul of federal law if they hired or continued to employ an individual who possesses a DP license.  AB 1660 was introduced on behalf of Western Growers as clean-up legislation to correct this issue.  AB 1660 clarifies that the statute does not alter an employer’s obligation to comply with federal immigration law, which would include completing the Form I-9 when hiring new workers.  Further, employers may require employees to possess a driver’s license, if required for work without violating state law.

  • §  AB 1897: Expanded liability for staffing agencies’ wage/hour violations –

This bill makes businesses directly liable to workers supplied by labor contractors (including temporary and other staffing agencies) when those labor contractors fail to correctly and completely pay wages or fail to provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage.

  • §  AB 1443: Discrimination and harassment protection for unpaid interns and volunteers –

This bill extends the harassment and discrimination protections of FEHA to unpaid interns, volunteers, and apprenticeship trainees. In addition, to being liable to these individuals for the conduct of another employee or a supervisor, an employer may be liable for harassment by a non-employee if the employer knew or should have known of the conduct and failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.

§  AB 2053: Harassment Prevention Training: Prevention of Abusive Conduct –

This bill requires employers that are subject to the mandatory sexual harassment prevention training requirement for supervisors to include a component on the prevention of “abusive conduct,” beginning January 1, 2015. “Abusive conduct” is specifically defined by the new law. This new law does not mean that an employee can sue for abusive conduct in the workplace unless, of course, the conduct becomes discrimination or harassment against a protected class. The law merely requires training on prevention of abusive conduct.

§  AB 1723: Payment of wages & AB 2743: Waiting Time Penalties –

Two bills increase enforcement of “waiting time” penalties. Existing law provides that the Labor Commissioner can cite an employer who pays less than the minimum wage, and that the citation can include a civil penalty, restitution, and liquidated damages. AB 1723 authorizes the Labor Commissioner also to include “waiting time” penalties- penalties for an employer’s failure to timely pay wages to an employee upon termination. The law does not create new penalties, but adds a new enforcement mechanism to the Labor Commissioner’s arsenal. 

AB 2743 provides a waiting time penalty if unionized theatrical and concert venue employers violate any agreed-upon timeframe for payment of final wages contained in a collective bargaining agreement.

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