There are several significant new labor laws that will impact most, if not all, California employers beginning January 1, 2019. For example, companies in California will need to ensure that appropriate accommodations are made available to certain employees.
In September of 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law several bills touching on a variety of issues. Some of these will incur a substantial cost for employers, such as AB 1976 that amends Labor Code Section 1031 which provides lactation accommodation requirements for all employers in California.
Overview of Some Key Labor Laws for 2019
Currently, Section 1031 requires that employers make space available for an employee to express milk that is a space other than a toilet stall. This space is required to be close to the employee's work area, as well. The new law expands Section 1031 in two ways.
In addition to the space being one other than a toilet stall, the new law requires employers to provide a space other than a restroom. Also, the law is believed to require that the lactation accommodation area be permanent space.
Because many employers have operational, financial, or space limitations, they may not have, or be able to make available, a permanent area close to an employee's work area for these purposes. In these cases, employers will be considered in compliance by providing a temporary location, if the temporary space meets the following criteria:
- Must be "private and free from intrusion while an employee expresses milk;"
- Must only be used "for lactation purposes while an employee expresses milk;" and
- The employer meets any other state law requirements regarding lactation accommodations, such as compliance with any applicable Industrial Wage Order relating to rest periods.
In some situations, a company may be unable to provide neither a permanent or temporary location for a lactating employee. For these businesses there are one of two exemptions that can apply.
- Agricultural employers will be following the lactation accommodation laws if "a private, enclosed, and shaded space" is provided for an employee to express milk.
- Any employer may apply for an undue hardship exemption by showing that the size, nature, or structure of the business prevents them from complying with the requirements of Section 1031.
In the second scenario, the employer would be allowed to provide any location available for an employee to express milk other than a toilet stall.
Establishing Gender Equality on Boards of Directors
Another bill signed by the governor was SB 826 which requires that, by the end of 2019, all public companies headquartered in California must have at least one female director on its board. The new law also requires that, by 2021, these businesses include two women for five-board members and three women on boards of six or more members.
Failing to comply with these requirements before the year ends means these California corporations can be fined.
Federal laws differ from this state law in that they subject corporations to rules concerning their internal affairs in the state where they are incorporated, not where they are headquartered.
Workplace Harassment and Sexual Misconduct
A number new laws incorporate rules to prevent workplace harassment and help sexual misconduct victims obtain justice. Some of the key harassment and sexual misconduct-related bills Governor Brown signed include:
Senate Bill 820 prohibits secret settlements and non-disclosure agreements in sexual harassment cases. While a victim could choose to keep his or her name private, the perpetrator’s identity cannot be confidential
Senate Bill 1300 prohibits companies from requiring their workers to sign releases of liability as a condition of continued employment or in exchange for a bonus.
Senate Bill 1343 requires biannual sexual harassment training for nearly all California employees.
Assembly Bill 2770 ensures victims of sexual harassment and employers are not sued for defamation by the alleged harasser when a complaint of sexual harassment is made, and the employer conducts its internal investigation.
Since the new labor laws that were signed will take effect on January 1, 2019, California employers and managers should already have taken steps to ensure compliance.
HR Compliance Best Practices for California Labor Law
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