New California Labor Laws in Effect for 2015
Last year, the California legislature passed a number of new laws and amended a number of others. Most of these changes took effect on January 1st and some, like the Mandatory Leaves of Absence provision, become effective on July 1, 2015.
It is vitally important for employers in California to review their current policies and practices to ensure compliance and provide for any required new workplace postings.
Here is a summary of 15 significant changes that went into effect in 2015:
Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (AB 1522)
- Mandatory Leaves of Absence. Effective July 1, 2015 the law requires employers to provide paid sick leave to any employee who worked in California for 30 days, at an accrual rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. The law applies to almost all employers, regardless of size. Penalties may be imposed for noncompliance. The law also adds or amends several sections to the Labor Code, including record keeping, notice, and workplace poster requirements.
- Safety Hazards. The Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) issues citations to employers deemed to be in violation of safety-related laws. Citations identify a period to abate/fix the alleged violation. Employers may appeal the citation and previously had no requirement to fix the violation while the appeal was pending. AB 1634 effectively prohibits the DOSH from modifying civil penalties for abatement unless the employer has fixed the violation.
- Injury Reporting (AB 326). Allows employers to e-mail reports of a work-related serious injury, illness or death to the DOSH, amends telephone or telegraph reporting requirement.
Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation Protections
- Undocumented Persons. AB 1660 prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals who hold or present a driver’s license issued to undocumented persons under AB 60.
- Immigration. AB 2751 expands unfair immigration-related practices to include threatening or filing a false complaint with any state or federal agency. Current law extended the protection only to reports filed with the police.
- Farm Labor Contractors. SB 1087 prohibits the Labor Commissioner from issuing a “farm labor contractors” (FLC) license to any person who, within the preceding three years 1) has been found to have committed sexual harassment of an employee or 2) has employed a supervisory employee he/she knew or should have known had been found to have sexually harassed an employee.
- Unpaid Interns and Volunteers. AB 1443 prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals in unpaid internships and extends religious belief protections and accommodation requirements to persons in apprenticeships and unpaid internships.
- Medi-Cal Recipients. AB 1792 prohibits employers from: (1) discharging, discriminating, or retaliating against an employee who enrolls in Medi-Cal; (2) refusing to hire a beneficiary of Medi-Cal; or (3) disclosing to any person that an employee receives Medi-Cal, unless authorized by state or federal law.
- Abusive Conduct Training. AB 2053 requires covered employers (those with more than 50 employees) to include a component on the prevention of “abusive conduct” to their mandatory sexual harassment prevention training requirement, beginning January 1, 2015.
Wage and Hour Protections
- Child Labor Protection Act of 2014 (AB 2288). Provides: penalties for violations regarding employment of minors, tolling of claims until the minor is 18 years of age, and treble damages for individuals discriminated or retaliated against because they filed a claim alleging a child labor violation.
- Contractors. AB 1897 imposes liability on employers who contract for labor. “Client employers” may now share liability where a labor contractor fails to pay its workers or provide workers’ compensation coverage.
- Waiting Time Penalties. AB 1723 authorizes the Labor Commissioner to include waiting time penalties in commissioner-initiated citations for failure to pay minimum wage.
- Liquidated Damages. AB 2074 counters recent court cases limiting liquidated damages claims to a one-year statute of limitations. The law clarifies that persons may file lawsuits seeking to recover liquidated damages for minimum wage violations within three years.
- Criminal History Information (AB 1650). State contractors performing on-site construction-related services must certify that they will not ask job applicants to disclose information concerning criminal history at the time of an initial employment application.
- Services to Minors (AB 1852). Businesses that provide specified services to minors must provide a written notice to the parent/guardian of the minor receiving those services, ideally addressing the business’s policies relating to employee criminal background checks.
San Francisco and Oakland Employers: Minimum Wage Changes
Another result of the November 4, 2014 elections was the mandated increase in minimum wage for San Francisco and Oakland employers for 2015.
- In San Francisco, the minimum wage increased to $12.25 per hour on May1st from the previous rate of $10.74 per hour. The new law will increase minimum wage again to $13 per hour in July 2016. From there, the wage will go up by one dollar every year until July 2018 when it tops out at $15 per hour.
- A similar measure in Oakland was approved which increased the citywide minimum wage to $12.25 on March 2, 2015, from the current state level of $9.00. For employers in Oakland the minimum wage rate will see increases January 1st every year based on cost of living adjustments.
What these labor laws mean for you as an employer
Many of these new regulations expand the scope of risk for employers, and require new workplace postings or changes to existing workplace policies. We recommend that all California employers consult with experienced employment counsel to ensure that are in compliance as we approach the middle of 2015.
Accurate and timely management and compliance practices are required for every business and every payroll professional. But there are options. Accuchex, a reputable payroll management services provider, can not only relieve you of the burden of your ongoing payroll process demands, but can potentially prove to be a more cost-effective solution, as well.
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