CalChamber Releases List of New Employment Laws

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The California Chamber of Commerce has released a list of new employment laws scheduled to take effect in 2015 or earlier that will have an impact on businesses in California.

Some of the new laws for 2015, such as mandatory paid sick leave, make significant changes to California’s legal landscape. Other new laws make changes to different parts of existing law or may affect only employers in specified industries, such as farming.

Unless specified, the following list of new legislation goes into effect on January 1, 2015.

More details are available in a free CalChamber white paper, available at www.calchamber.com/newlaws2015.

Leaves of Absence

Mandatory Paid Sick Leave. AB 1522, the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, requires employers to provide paid sick leave to any employee who worked in California for 30 days. The effective date for employers to begin providing the paid sick leave benefit is July 1, 2015.

The law contains many different nuances, such as detailed recordkeeping and notice requirements, including a new poster requirement. The law also contains penalties for noncompliance.

More information in the HRCalifornia white paper.

Time Off for Emergency Duty: Expanded Category. AB 2536 adds new personnel to the list of employees eligible for protected time off for emergency duty.

Employee Protections

Protections for Unpaid Interns and Volunteers. AB 1443 adds unpaid interns and volunteers to the list of individuals protected from harassment under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

Nondiscrimination: Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Persons. AB 1660 makes it a violation of FEHA for an employer to discriminate against an individual because he/she holds or presents a driver’s license issued to undocumented persons who can submit satisfactory proof of identity and California residency. These driver’s licenses are scheduled to start being issued on January 1, 2015.

Immigration-Related Protections. AB 2751 expands the definition of an unfair immigration-related practice to include threatening to file or filing a false report or complaint with any state or federal agency. Current law extended the protection only to reports filed with the police.

Prohibition of Discrimination Against Public Assistance Recipients: Public Reports. AB 1792 prohibits discrimination and retaliation against employees receiving public assistance, which is defined as meaning the Medi-Cal program.

Harassment Prevention Training: Prevention of Abusive Conduct. AB 2053 requires employers that are subject to the mandatory sexual harassment prevention training requirement for supervisors to include a component on the prevention of “abusive conduct,” beginning January 1, 2015. “Abusive conduct” is specifically defined by the new law.

Harassment Prevention Training: Farm Labor Contractors. SB 1087 imposes specific sexual harassment prevention training requirements on farm labor contractors, including a yearly training requirement for supervisory employees and training for nonsupervisory employees at the time of hire and every two years thereafter. The required content for the training is not as involved as AB 1825 training.

Wage and Hour

Several new laws will increase employers’ wage-and-hour obligations in 2015. Many of the new laws in the wage-and-hour arena deal with increasing penalties and expanding liability, instead of imposing significant new obligations on employers.

Increased Liability for Employers That Contract for Labor. AB 1897 imposes liability on employers who contract for labor. The purpose of the law is to hold companies accountable for wage-and-hour violations when they use staffing agencies or other labor contractors to supply workers. For more information, see the October 24 Alert.

Rest and Recovery Periods. SB 1360 confirms that recovery periods that are taken pursuant to heat illness regulations are paid breaks and count as hours worked. SB 1360 reiterates what is already in existing law in this area and was passed simply to clear up any confusion employers may have had.

Waiting Time Penalties. AB 1723 expands available enforcement mechanisms for assessing waiting time penalties when an employer willfully fails to timely pay wages to a resigned or discharged employee. AB 2743 provides a waiting time penalty if unionized theatrical and concert venue employers violate any agreed upon timeframe for paying final wages contained in a collective bargaining agreement.

Protections for Complaints Under the Labor Code. AB 2751 clarifies that the $10,000 penalty against an employer who discriminates or retaliates against an employee who complains of Labor Code violations will be awarded to the employee or employees who “suffered the violation.”

Timeframe for Recovery of Wages: Liquidated Damages. AB 2074 states that a lawsuit seeking to recover liquidated damages for minimum wage violations can be filed any time before the expiration of the statute of limitations that applies to the underlying wage claim, which is three years.

Child Labor Law Violations: Increased Remedies. AB 2288 provides additional penalties for violations of California laws regarding employment of minors, including a penalty of $25,000 to $50,000 for “Class A” violations involving minors 12 years of age or younger.

Foreign Labor Contractors. SB 477 is noteworthy for employers that use foreign labor contractors to recruit foreign workers for California assignments. In part, it requires foreign labor contractors to meet registration, licensing and bonding requirements by July 1, 2016.

Prevailing Wages. Bills signed include AB 1939, allowing a contractor to bring an action against “hiring parties” to recover any increased costs incurred because the work was performed on a covered public work subject to prevailing wage laws.

Background Checks

Criminal History Information in Public Contracts. AB 1650 requires contractors who bid on state contracts involving on-site construction-related services to certify that they will not ask applicants for on-site construction-related jobs to disclose information concerning criminal history at the time of an initial employment application.

Services to Minors. AB 1852 requires a business that provides specified services to minors to provide a written notice to the parent or guardian of the minor receiving those services. The written notice should address the business’s policies relating to employee criminal background checks.

Workplace Safety

Penalties for Failure to Abate Safety Hazards. Cal/OSHA can require an employer to abate (fix) serious workplace safety violations and also issue civil penalties. An employer can appeal the citation. AB 1634, in effect, prohibits the state Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board from modifying civil penalties for abatement or credit for abatement unless the employer has fixed the violation.

Email for Workplace Safety Reports. AB 326 allows employers to email their reports of a work-related serious injury, illness or death to the Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

Workplace Violence Prevention Plans: Hospitals. SB 1299 requires Cal/OSHA to adopt standards by January 1, 2016, that require specified types of hospitals, including general acute care hospitals or acute psychiatric hospitals, to adopt workplace violence prevention plans as part of the hospitals’ injury and illness prevention plans.

Members-Only Analysis

A more in-depth analysis of the new employment laws is available to CalChamber members in the October 16 HRCalifornia Extra.

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