The California Chamber of Commerce this week announced that SB 592 (Newman; D-Fullerton) is the first job creator bill of the year. The bill is also sponsored by the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the CalAsian Chamber of Commerce.
SB 592 proposes two important changes to law.
• First, the bill would require the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) to translate its website content into the most commonly spoken languages in California. Currently, website content is primarily in English. The bill would result in the addition of content made available in Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog and Vietnamese.
• Secondly, SB 592 will shield employers who rely in good faith on the written advice of the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) from punishment through the assessment of civil and criminal penalties, fines and interest.
“California has complex, unique burdensome labor and employment laws,” said CalChamber Policy Advocate Ashley Hoffman. “Employers who are non-English speakers should have the benefit of access to resources that can help them be compliant with those laws. Further, small businesses who rely on DLSE’s written advice and guidance should not be punished if a court ultimately determines that advice is wrong.”
There are numerous instances where courts have interpreted statutes differently from DLSE-established guidelines, resulting in employers owing not only back wages but also penalties under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) and other Labor Code provisions.
Troester v. Starbucks is one such example where the court invalidated part of DLSE’s enforcement manual regarding wage and hour law that employers had relied on.
Importantly, SB 592 does not protect bad actors. Employers must provide a defense that demonstrates they are entitled to any good faith determination.
“Uncertainty for employers regarding the correct application of California’s numerous labor and employment laws detrimentally impacts the state’s economy as well as employees,” said Hoffman. “Providing certainty through SB 592 will assist all employers in their efforts to comply with the law, thereby producing a better business environment, growth in the economy and an improved work environment for employees. Further, providing website information in the languages most commonly spoken in California will benefit both employers and employees and create higher levels of compliance.”