New California Laws Change Workplace Rules

Starting off the New Year means getting to know the new laws recently passed by the state Legislature. Most of them go into effect on Jan. 1.

There are several regulations protecting workers from hazardous chemicals, discrimination and sexual harassment. There is also an extension to the Parental Leave Act, which affects larger companies.

Once again, the minimum wage is scheduled to go up on Jan. 1 with the 50-cent increase depending on the size of the company. For smaller businesses, the state minimum wage will be $10.50. For larger companies, it will be $11 an hour.

Later this summer, city-specific minimum-wage laws will see further increases. Los Angeles and San Francisco are two of the cities that have higher wages than the rest of the state.

Minimum Wages (Senate Bill 3 and local laws)

On Jan. 1, the state minimum wage goes up to $10.50 an hour for employers with 25 or fewer workers, and it goes up to $11 an hour for employers with 26 or more workers. In Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Pasadena, the minimum wage increases on July 1 to $12 an hour for employers with 25 or fewer workers and rises to $13.25 an hour for employers with 26 or more workers. In San Francisco, the minimum wage on July 1 will be $15 an hour, no matter the size of the company. The increases in the state minimum wage are important because they affect the standard for exempt status under California law. In order to be exempt from being paid overtime under the executive, administrative and professional exemptions, an employee must be paid at least twice the state minimum wage per month. So, in 2018, the minimum annualized salary for an employee to be considered for one of these exemptions in California will rise to $45,760 for employers with 26 or more employees and to $43,680 for employers with 25 or fewer employees.

Parental Leave (Senate Bill 63)

The new Parental Leave Act requires small businesses with 20 or more employees to be given up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to bond with a new child. Leave must be taken within a year of the child’s birth, adoption or foster-care placement. This is only for baby bonding and is not required to provide for employees who want leaves for other issues, such as taking care of a sick parent or loved one.

This law will mostly affect employers with 20 to 49 workers who had not previously been required to provide baby-bonding leave.

Salary History (Assembly Bill 168)

This new law bans employers from asking about a job applicant’s previous salary history as a factor in determining whether to hire the applicant or how much to pay the applicant. However, employers can consider salary information that is disclosed voluntarily by the applicant without any prompting.

Ban-the-Box Law (Assembly Bill 1008)

In an effort to employ more reformed criminals, this law prohibits employers with five or more workers from asking about criminal-history information at any time before a conditional offer of employment has been made. There are some exemptions, such as those where a criminal-background check is required by local, state or federal law.

Worksite Immigration Enforcement and Protections (Assembly Bill 450)

The state has decided that workers should be provided protection from immigration enforcement while on the job and imposes varying fines from $2,000 to $10,000 for violating these provisions.

This bill could also make it unlawful for employers to re-verify the employment eligibility of current employees in a time or manner not allowed by federal employment-eligibility verification laws.

Harassment-Prevention Training (Senate Bill 396)

California employers with 50 or more employees must provide supervisors with two hours of sexual harassment–prevention training every two years. These training courses will have to discuss harassment based on gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.

Anti-Discrimination Protections for Veterans (Assembly Bill 1710)

This new law expands current protections for members of the armed services by prohibiting discrimination in all terms and conditions of employment. This bill makes state law conform to the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act by protecting service members in civilian jobs from hostile work environments.

Labor Law Enforcement, Retaliation (Senate Bill 306)

This new regulation allows the state Labor Commissioner to investigate an employer even if an employee hasn’t made a complaint. The commissioner can do this when he or she suspects retaliation or discrimination against a worker during a wage claim or other investigation.

The Labor Commissioner also can obtain a court order prohibiting an employer from firing or disciplining an employee, even before completing its investigation.

Workplace Safety (Senate Bill 258)

Trying to keep workers safe, this bill relates to the safety of designated cleaning products, including general-cleaning, air-care, automotive or polish or floor-maintenance products used primarily for janitorial, industrial or domestic cleaning purposes.

This bill states that manufacturers of designated cleaning products must disclose the chemicals in those products and provide safety data sheets. Employers who have these products in the workplace must obtain the safety data sheets from the manufacturers and make them available at the workplace.

Domestic Terrorism Injury on the Job (Assembly Bill 44)

Under this law, employers must provide a nurse case manager to advocate for workers injured when on the job by an act of domestic terrorism but only when the governor has declared a state of emergency.