CALIFORNIA'S NEW BUSINESS LAWS for 2017
EMPLOYMENT CONTRACTS and JURISDICTION
IN SB124, effective January 1, 2017, the California legislature is attempting to assure that workers who work for out-of-state employers are able to adjudicate their disputes in California. Specifically, the law states that employees who principally work and reside in California cannot be required by employers to enter agreements that would resolve their claims in out-of-state forums or litigate claims under the law of another jurisdiction.
The upshot is that national employers with offices in California will be required to conduct business under California law. In cases which involve solicitation by employees, this will be a substantial issue. California is much more lenient with employees who steal customer lists and compete with former employers compared with other states.
Under AB1676 and SB1063, both effective January 1, 2017, California’s Fair Pay Act is amended. Fair pay is a growing area of litigation for employees in the state. These laws:
(1) Expand the Fair Pay Act to race and ethnicity as protected categories.
(2) Remove geography as a defense: Before, a company could use as a defense that opposite-sex employees were paid differing amounts because they lived in different parts of the state. The basis for this argument is that the cost of living in California can vary widely depending on where you live. However, this defense is no longer available as a stand alone defense. However, the jury will still be able to consider this as evidence.
(3) 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 employer legal reason to pay opposite-sex employees, such as education, training or experience.
EMPLOYERS MUST GIVE NOTICE REGARDING RIGHTS FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, STALKING, SEXUAL ASSAULT
Under AB2337, effective July 1, 2017, employers of 25 or more employees must 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. Employers should make sure their notices are updated.
UNFAIR PRACTICES in IMMIGRATION
Under SB1001, effective January 1, 2017, employers are limited in what they can request to prove immigration status. If documents presented to the employer “appear reasonably on their face to be genuine,” the employer can undertake no further inquiry into the employees immigration status.
JUVENILE CRIMINAL HISTORY AND JOB APPLICATIONS
AB1843, effective January 1, 2017, amends existing law that forbids employers to ask applicants about arrests that did not result in a conviction, or which resulted in a court diversion program, or a criminal matter that has been expunged or sealed. Under the amendment, employers cannot ask an applicant about information concerning past involvement in juvenile court, including adjudication or court disposition.
This law will require most employees to amend their employment applications. There are some exceptions, especially regarding health worker records.
CALIFORNIA MINIMUM WAGE
It goes up to $10.50 an hour on January 1, 2017.
SINGLE-USER RESTROOMS ALL-GENDER DESIGNATION
AB1732 requires that by March 1, 2017, all single-user restrooms meant for public access must be identified as an all-gender toilet facility.
AGRICULTURAL WORKER OVERTIME
Under AB1066, effective January 1, 2017 with extended deadlines, agricultural employers will be required to pay standard overtime for agricultural workers. Overtime pay starts at eight hours for most employees, but agricultural workers currently must work a 10-hour day before they receive overtime pay. The law introduces a schedule that begins in 2019 and concludes in 2022, dropping back the overtime threshold by a half-hour each year until overtime starts after eight hours. Employers with 25 or fewer workers have three additional years to comply.
MINIMUM WAGE DISPUTE BOND
Starting January 1, 2017, employers must comply with AB2899, which requires that the employer post a bond in order to appeal an unfavorable Labor Commission ruling for wage and hour violations. 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.