Employment Law Blog

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Oct 15, 2015

California Employers: More 2015 bills signed

Harassment & DiscriminationLabor RelationsLeave LawsSafety and HealthWage and Hour 

Governor Jerry Brown has signed more bills from the 2015 California legislative session that affect employers, some of which are extremely significant.

Governor Jerry Brown has signed more bills from the 2015 California legislative session that affect employers, some of which are extremely significant. Unless otherwise indicated, these bills take effect on January 1, 2016.

SB 358: The California Fair Pay Act dramatically expands the ability of workers to sue for sex discrimination in payment of wages. Stepping beyond the long-standing principle that men and women should receive equal pay for equal work, the bill requires equal pay for substantially similar work, taking into account the skill, effort, and responsibility of the jobs being compared. The bill also eliminates the requirement that the jobs must be located at the same establishment in order to be compared. Employers will have the burden to justify differences in pay between members of the opposite sex in substantially similar jobs, based on reasonably applying specific factors, such as seniority, merit, quantity or quality of production, or a bona fide factor other than sex such as education, training, or experience. Workers will be protected from discrimination or retaliation for pursuing their rights under the law, disclosing their own wages, discussing others’ wages, or asking about others’ wages. The record retention period will also increase from two years to three years.

AB 1513: The itemized statement accompanying a paycheck for piece rate workers will have to separately state the total hours, rate of pay, and gross wages paid for rest periods and for other nonproductive time. Building on recent California court decisions on piece rates, the law confirms that employers must pay for rest periods and other nonproductive time at or above specified minimum hourly rates, separately from any piece-rate compensation. To avoid civil penalties and liquidated damages for failure to separately pay for rest periods and other nonproductive time from July 1, 2012, to December 31, 2015, an employer must follow specific steps including paying the employees, notifying the Director of Industrial Relations, and posting notices on its website.

SB 579: Expands coverage of protected leave for a child’s school activities to include time off to find, enroll, or reenroll a child in a school or with a licensed child care provider, and to address a child care provider or school emergency. Also updates California’s long-standing law that allows workers to care for sick family members by using the amount of accrued paid sick leave that they would accrue in a six-month period. The bill makes the definition of family member and covered reasons for leave consistent with the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (statewide paid sick leave).

SB 327: Declares that voluntary meal period waivers in the health care industry, consistent with Industrial Welfare Commission Orders, have been valid since October 1, 2000. This overrides a contrary California court of appeals decision on which we previously reported. Effective upon the governor’s signature on October 5, 2015. 

AB1506: Employers now have an opportunity to fix two types of pay stub errors before a worker can sue under the California Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA). The worker must notify the employer and the Labor and Workforce Development Agency of a failure to provide the inclusive dates of the pay period and the name and address of the legal entity that is the employer with the pay check. The employer has 33 days from the postmark date of the notice to fix the error, although the employer gets only one opportunity per 12-month period, regardless of the number of locations affected. The correction requires providing a fully compliant itemized wage statement to each affected employee for each pay period for the past three years. This bill took effect immediately upon the governor’s signature on October 2, 2015.

AB 1509: Protects employees from retaliation when their family members engage in protected conduct (such as political activities, wage claims, claims under the jurisdiction of the Labor Commissioner, claims under the California Private Attorneys General Act, and safety complaints).

AB 622: Requires employers that use E-Verify to comply with the federal requirements for doing so, such as limiting it to new hires and existing employees and providing a copy of any tentative nonconfirmation notice or other notices from the Social Security Administration or the Department of Homeland Security. Employers are liable for a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for each violation, per applicant or employee.

AB 970: Allows the Labor Commissioner to enforce local ordinances on minimum wage and overtime, and to issue citations and penalties to employers who fail to reimburse workers for necessary business expenses.

SB 588: Expands the ability of the Labor Commissioner to enforce and collect on judgments for nonpayment of wages.

SB 287: Requires certain buildings constructed on or after January 1, 2017, to have an automated external defibrillator (AED) on site and to comply with existing law regarding maintenance of the AED.

Our California employment attorneys are ready to help you comply with these laws. Contact us today to discuss flat fee Employer Counsel with Vigilant.

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