This year the California Legislature added numerous new employment laws, most of which become effective on January 1, 2017. Most of these statutory laws impose new regulations on employers, while there was a recent decision in an important California Supreme Court case that affects employee meal/rest periods. This newsletter highlights a few of the new laws that employers should be aware of in 2017.
Expansion of California’s Equal Pay Act
In 2016, California expanded the Equal Pay Act by creating the Fair Pay Act, which was designed to ensure gender pay equality for employees performing the same or substantially similar work. The Fair Pay Act was amended by AB 1676, which prohibits employers from justifying a gender wage disparity by relying on the lower paid employee’s salary at a prior position or with a prior employer. Also, SB 1063 expands the wage disparity protection beyond gender to include prohibition of wage disparity based on race and ethnicity.
Minimum Wage Increase
California’s minimum hourly wage will now increase incrementally over the next three years per SB 3. Beginning January 1, 2017, employers with more than 25 employees must pay non-exempt employees a minimum wage of $10.50 per hour. This rate will reach $15.00 per hour in 2022. Businesses with 25 or less employees are not required to begin the scheduled increases until 2018, when they must pay all non-exempt employees a minimum wage of $10.50 per hour.
Expansion of Protection Against Inquiry of Prior Convictions
AB 1843 prohibits inquiring about, or using as a factor to determine condition of employment, an arrest, detention, or conviction that occurred while the applicant or employee was under the jurisdiction of a juvenile court. There is still an exception for health facilities, which have a right to inquire about certain juvenile offenses unless the record has been sealed by the juvenile court.
Posting Bond in Labor Commissioner Hearings
AB 2899 requires an employer contesting a Labor Commissioner citation for paying an employee less than minimum wage to post a bond in an amount totaling the allegedly unpaid wages and liquidated damages. The proceeds of the bond will be paid to the employee if the employer fails to pay the amount determined by the Commissioner to be owed within 10 days from the conclusion of the hearing on the matter (subject to any appeal). Therefore, even if a former or current employee files a complaint with the Labor Commissioner, it could be costly. This is more the reason to comply with minimum wage and meal/rest period laws.
Overtime Pay/Meal & Rest Periods for Agricultural Workers
AB 1066 eliminates the exemption from wage and hour, and meal and rest break requirements for agricultural workers. It phases in overtime compensation requirements for these workers over a four-year schedule that varies with the employer’s size.
Meal/Rest Periods Generally
In the case Augustus et. al. v. ABM Security Services, Inc., the California Supreme Court reversed a previous court decision and ruled that California law prohibits on-duty and on-call rest periods. Therefore, during rest periods, employers must relieve employees of all duties and relinquish all control over how the employee spends their break time. The Court left often the possibility for employers to reschedule a rest period when the situation arises, but noted that this should not be common practice.
Remedy for Unlawful Verification of Right to Work
SB 1001 prohibits an employer, in the course of verifying authorization to work, from (a) requesting more or different documents than are required under federal law (b) refusing to honor documents that on their face appear reasonably genuine, (c) refusing to honor documents or work authorization based upon the specific status or term of status that accompanies the authorization, and (d) attempting to re-investigate or re-verify an employee’s authorization using an unfair immigration-related practice.
Notice to Employees of Rights Concerning Domestic Violence/Stalking
Existing law prohibits an employer with 25 or more employees from discharging, discriminating, or retaliating against an employee who is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking because he or she takes time off from work to address the situation. AB 2337 requires that employers provide written notice of these rights to new employees upon hire, and to current employees upon request. The law obligates the Labor Commissioner, by July 1, 2017, to develop and post on its website a form notice that employers can use to satisfy this requirement. The employer’s obligation commences at the time the Labor Commissioner posts the form, but no later than July 1, 2017.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding these matters, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Tyler Q. Dahl.
Disclaimer: This material was prepared for general informational purposes only, and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship and does not constitute legal advice. This material should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney licensed or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. You should always consult a qualified attorney regarding any specific legal problem or matter.