California unveils raft of new wage and anti-discrimination legislation California unveils raft of new wage and anti-discrimination legislation

California unveils raft of new wage and anti-discrimination legislation
17 Dec 2018

A number of new and noteworthy employment laws will come into effect in California on 1 January 2019 and beyond, some of which stem from the #MeToo movement and are an attempt to strengthen sexual harassment and discrimination protections. According to Lexology, this new legislation will include:

Wage issues

  • The state minimum wage will increase to US$11 per hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees, and to US$12 per hour for employers with 26 staff or more. The SB 3 legislation is not new, and was in fact enacted in 2016, so this is just the latest mandatory increase;
  • Employees already have the legal right to inspect, or copy, their payroll records within 21 days of making a request to do so. But the SB 1252 law requires employers to make and provide such copies rather than obliging staff to find ways to make copies themselves;
  • Last year’s law banning potential employers from making inquiries about a job candidate’s salary history and requiring them to provide pay scales upon request contained some ambiguities that have been addressed in this year’s AB 2282. This means that the Labor Code will be amended to enable employers to ask about an applicant’s salary expectations for the position being applied for. Only external applicants are entitled to receive pay scales upon request and only after they have completed an initial interview. The pay scales provided only need to include salary or hourly wage ranges. Moreover, compensation decisions based on a current employee’s existing salary, as in the case of giving pay rises or bonuses, will be permissible only if justified by factors such as seniority or a merit system.

Harassment and discrimination matters

  • California has a paid family leave programme that provides partial wage replacement for employees who take leaves of absence due to specified purposes. The new law, SB 1123, will expand the scheme to provide paid family leave benefits to staff who take time off as a result of being called to active duty or if their spouse, domestic partner, parent, or child are called to active duty too. It will come into force as of 1 January 2021;
  • The SB 1300 law adds a section to the Government Code that declares the purpose of harassment laws is to provide all Californians with equal opportunities to succeed in the workplace. It also prohibits employers from requiring employees, in exchange for a pay rise or bonus, or as a condition of employment or continued employment, to agree not to sue or bring a claim against their employer under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. Employers are likewise forbidden to ask staff to sign a non-disparagement agreement preventing them from disclosing information about unlawful acts in the workplace. These prohibitions will not apply to negotiated settlement or severance agreements;
  • In instances where employees have alleged sexual harassment, assault or discrimination, the new SB 820 will prohibit employers from entering into a settlement agreement on or after 1 January 2019 that includes a confidentiality provision preventing disclosure of factual information about the claim. Any provision in a contract or settlement agreement will be deemed unenforceable if it prohibits a worker from giving testimony about criminal conduct or sexual harassment in an administrative, legislative or judicial proceeding;
  • Current law requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide supervisors with two hours of sexual harassment training. Under SB 1343, all employers with five or more employees will be obliged to do so too by 1 January 2020. Non-supervisorial employees must also receive an hour’s worth of training within six months of being hired or promoted and refresher courses must also be held every two years after that;
  • Any publicly-held corporation with principal executive offices in California will be obliged to have at least one female director on the board by 31 December 2019. Depending on the board’s size, it may be necessary to appoint up to three female members by the end of 2021. Failure to conform will lead to significant financial penalties;

Employers must currently provide employees with a private location, other than a toilet stall, close to their work area so they can express breast milk. But AB 1976 brings California law into conformity with federal law by requiring that employers provide a location other than a “bathroom”, rather than just a toilet stall. The new law will provide an undue hardship exemption under limited circumstances.

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance business journalist. Her work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including the Guardian, the Times, Forbes and the BBC.

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A number of new and noteworthy employment laws will come into effect in California on 1 January 2019 and beyond, some of which stem from the #MeToo movement and are an attempt to strengthen sexual harassment and discrimination protections. According to Lexology, this new legislation will include:

Wage issues

  • The state minimum wage will increase to US$11 per hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees, and to US$12 per hour for employers with 26 staff or more. The SB 3 legislation is not new, and was in fact enacted in 2016, so this is just the latest mandatory increase;
  • Employees already have the legal right to inspect, or copy, their payroll records within 21 days of making a request to do so. But the SB 1252 law requires employers to make and provide such copies rather than obliging staff to find ways to make copies themselves;
  • Last year’s law banning potential employers from making inquiries about a job candidate’s salary history and requiring them to provide pay scales upon request contained some ambiguities that have been addressed in this year’s AB 2282. This means that the Labor Code will be amended to enable employers to ask about an applicant’s salary expectations for the position being applied for. Only external applicants are entitled to receive pay scales upon request and only after they have completed an initial interview. The pay scales provided only need to include salary or hourly wage ranges. Moreover, compensation decisions based on a current employee’s existing salary, as in the case of giving pay rises or bonuses, will be permissible only if justified by factors such as seniority or a merit system.

Harassment and discrimination matters

  • California has a paid family leave programme that provides partial wage replacement for employees who take leaves of absence due to specified purposes. The new law, SB 1123, will expand the scheme to provide paid family leave benefits to staff who take time off as a result of being called to active duty or if their spouse, domestic partner, parent, or child are called to active duty too. It will come into force as of 1 January 2021;
  • The SB 1300 law adds a section to the Government Code that declares the purpose of harassment laws is to provide all Californians with equal opportunities to succeed in the workplace. It also prohibits employers from requiring employees, in exchange for a pay rise or bonus, or as a condition of employment or continued employment, to agree not to sue or bring a claim against their employer under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. Employers are likewise forbidden to ask staff to sign a non-disparagement agreement preventing them from disclosing information about unlawful acts in the workplace. These prohibitions will not apply to negotiated settlement or severance agreements;
  • In instances where employees have alleged sexual harassment, assault or discrimination, the new SB 820 will prohibit employers from entering into a settlement agreement on or after 1 January 2019 that includes a confidentiality provision preventing disclosure of factual information about the claim. Any provision in a contract or settlement agreement will be deemed unenforceable if it prohibits a worker from giving testimony about criminal conduct or sexual harassment in an administrative, legislative or judicial proceeding;
  • Current law requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide supervisors with two hours of sexual harassment training. Under SB 1343, all employers with five or more employees will be obliged to do so too by 1 January 2020. Non-supervisorial employees must also receive an hour’s worth of training within six months of being hired or promoted and refresher courses must also be held every two years after that;
  • Any publicly-held corporation with principal executive offices in California will be obliged to have at least one female director on the board by 31 December 2019. Depending on the board’s size, it may be necessary to appoint up to three female members by the end of 2021. Failure to conform will lead to significant financial penalties;

Employers must currently provide employees with a private location, other than a toilet stall, close to their work area so they can express breast milk. But AB 1976 brings California law into conformity with federal law by requiring that employers provide a location other than a “bathroom”, rather than just a toilet stall. The new law will provide an undue hardship exemption under limited circumstances.

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance business journalist. Her work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including the Guardian, the Times, Forbes and the BBC.

OTHER STORIES THAT MAY INTEREST YOU

ADP's Californian Payroll error lawsuit could 'change face of industry'

Wells Fargo ordered to pay $97m for failing to provide break periods

California tightens up definition of 'independent contractor'

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