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Labor Law CA: Potential Employer Landmines In 2016

Posted by Tristan Ruhland on Jan 26, 2016 9:30:00 AM

labor-law-ca-potential-employer-landmines-in-2016Complying With Labor Law CA In 2016

This is a topic of caution for California employers - labor law CA - as is keeping track of the literally hundreds of new and changed laws. In fact, there were 807 new California labor laws that went into effect on January 1, 2016, according to the Los Angeles Times. Among these, SB358, or the Fair Pay Act, is one in particular that promises to keep employers anxious and labor lawyers busy.

What Will Be the Impact of the Fair Pay Act?

There are four important aspects that have changed from the previous law:

  • SB 358 requires equal pay for “substantially similar” and not equal work as it was stipulated previously.
  • The new law extends to different locations run by the same employer/company rather than “the same establishment.”
  • Employers must justify any pay differences between male and female workers doing substantially similar work, rather than the onus falling on employees to prove inequities, which usually meant the worker filing a California labor lawsuit.
  • It is now illegal for employers to bar workers from talking about their pay or their coworkers’ pay if the purpose is to determine wage fairness.
“Sharing salary information can enable employees to uncover wage inequities without fear of recrimination," Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, told the Sacramento Bee . “People have been afraid to ask what their colleagues are making,” she added. “You can’t challenge what you don’t know.”

Currently there is a pay disparity of 5 to 8 percent between males and females who perform the same work, despite factors like education, experience and seniority being identical. According to data cited in the legislation women in California earn an average of 84 cents for every dollar earned by men.

And, while labor lawyers agree with Governor Jerry Brown, who signed the bill into law in October 2015, that this new statute is “the strongest equal pay law in the nation.”, there are serious concerns over it's ability to close the wage gap between men and women who perform substantially similar work.

The phrase “Substantially similar” in the legislation could prove to be a contentious one. The exceptions that employers can cite to allow for differences in pay include seniority, education, and productivity measures that can be tracked by “quantity or quality of production.”

Labor Law CA - Adding to the Compliance Burden

Managing your employees today requires more attention than ever before, specifically taking into consideration the frequently changing California Labor Laws. With so many changes occurring in both State laws and Federal laws, a manager now also needs to be an expert in HR management to avoid potential lawsuits both from disgruntled employee and governmental agencies alike. 

Here is a brief overview of other important new statutes that went into effect this year.

Minimum wage and Overtime

California’s minimum wage increased from $9 per hour to $10, which is the highest minimum in the United States. The federal minimum is $7.25 an hour. The new minimum will affect more than 1.2 million Californians who earn minimum wage. White-collar workers must earn more for employers to exempt them from overtime pay. The new threshold is $3,466 a month, up from $3,120.

Back wages

If an employee isn’t get paid what they are owed, SB 588 allows the California Labor Commissioner to slap a lien on the boss’s property to try and recoup the value of the unpaid wages. This was a slimmed-down version of a prior, unsuccessful bill that was pushed by organized labor but repudiated by business interests - the key difference being that the commissioner, not workers, files the liens.

Grocery jobs

If a grocery stores gets new owners, AB 359 forbids the firing of grocery store workers for at least 90 days after a new market replaces the one where they worked. During those 90 days, union contracts would be honored. While workers can still be dismissed in that window for performance-related reasons, the labor-backed bill seeks to protect workers from losing their jobs to buyouts or mergers.


California-based professional sports teams must classify cheerleaders as employees rather than as independent contractors, with the accompanying wage and hour protections, under AB 202. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, who carried the bill, was a Stanford cheerleader.

Wage theft

The California Labor Commissioner under SB 588 and AB 970 now has the power to collect back wages and penalties from bosses who fail to pay minimum wage and overtime, force employees to work off the clock, refuse to offer meal and rest breaks, or make illegal paycheck deductions.

California Employers On the Defensive?

In addition to these and other labor law changes, employers can now be subject to stop-work orders, levies against their bank accounts and liens against their property. Employers, as well as owners, directors or managing agents acting on behalf of an employer, can be subject to criminal and personal liability. Previously, companies could avoid judgments by changing names. Now successor companies will be deemed liable if they engage in substantially the same work.

With the complexities of managing employment issues, do your HR practices put you at risk for costly fines and lawsuits? Hiring and firing. Overtime and sick leave. It all gets complicated, but it doesn’t have to. Affordable online resources can quickly guide you to HR solutions for challenging personnel situations. It also helps ensure you’re in compliance with state and federal labor laws. At Accuchex we provide valuable resources and services for employers.

Complying With Labor Law - California and Federal

If your organization would like to learn more about its obligations, or acquire resources to deal with these types of situations, Accuchex recently partnered with HR Solutions Partners to offer its customers the most up-to-date and professional human resources management solutions available. To learn more about the different levels of Human Resource Management services available, please follow this link.

To learn more about the services Accuchex provides, click on the button below to download our free guidebook.

Free Guide: California Labor Law – What You Need To Know


Topics: ca labor laws, HR best practices, california labor law, labor law compliance, employee lawsuits

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