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New HR Laws Looming

By Faith Driscoll, Esq.

After the July summer vacation in the Assembly and Senate, the Legislature has reconvened and will make decisions regarding several pending bills.  The bills have until August 31, 2016, to pass the second legislative chamber.  In order for HR practitioners to stay on track, it’s important to follow these potential laws as they make their way to Governor Brown’s desk.  Governor Brown must sign or veto any bills prior to the September 30th deadline.   Many of these bills will affect the workplace and require modifications to current policies and practices.

Pending Bills.  Some of pending have the potential to:

  • Expand California’s Equal Pay Act to target race and ethnicity-related wage differentials (SB 1063);
  • Require employers to provide double pay for work performed on Thanksgiving (AB 67);
  • Expand the prohibitions regarding “immigration-related practices” (SB 1001);
  • Require employers in the agricultural industry to pay overtime after eight (currently required after ten) hours of work (AB 1066);
  • Prohibit hiring-related inquiries concerning juvenile convictions (AB 1843);
  • Preclude salary history from justifying gender-based waged differentials (AB 1676);
  • Make any contractual agreement to litigate employment disputes outside of California voidable by an employee (SB 1241);
  • Expand California’s heat illness regulations to include indoor employees (SB 1167); and
  • Require employers to either provide or make available for inspection policies regarding sexual assault/domestic violence leave rights and an employer’s Illness and Injury Prevention Program (AB 2337 and AB 2895).

In addition to the bills that are still moving through the Legislature, a number of laws have already been passed this year.

New Laws Already Enacted.  If you haven’t heard that minimum wage is going up for all California employees then you’re already behind the ball.  For employers with over 25 employees, the increase begins on January 1, 2017 to $10.50 per hour.  Employers with 25 or less employees have a one year delay in this increase.  This will not only impact the minimum wage workers, but also those who are exempt as the salary of an exempt employee at least twice minimum wage. Minimum wage will increase each year according to a set schedule, until reaching $15 per hour in 2022. 

The Private Attorney General Act (“PAGA”) was amended in an effort to reduce litigation costs for employers and provide better outcomes for employees related to disputes.  Some of the changes include: introducing a $75 filing fee, an online system for making and responding to claims to the State of California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, the timeframe for review of claims was extended from 30 to 60 days, court approval of any settlement of a PAGA lawsuit, among other procedural changes. 

Paid Family Leave (California’s family temporary disability insurance program) has been modified to increase the wage replacement benefits paid to employees.  Formerly, employees received a maximum of 55% wage replacement, which increases to 60-70% depending on the employee’s income level.  In addition, the 7-day waiting period has been eliminated starting January 1, 2017.  The wage replacement changes will take effect for claims starting on or after January 1, 2018.

As of June 6, 2016, the prohibition against smoking inside places of employment extends to “the use of an electronic smoking device that creates an aerosol or vapor, in any manner or in any form, or the use of any oral smoking device for the purpose of circumventing the prohibition of smoking.” 

Wage statements (also called paycheck stubs) were required to include specific information, including the total hours worked during the pay period.  The former exception, which applied to exempt employees who were paid solely based on salary, has been extended to include all (a) executive, administrative, or professional employees; (b) the “outside sales” exception; (c) salaried computer professionals; (d) parents, spouses, children, or legally-adopted children of the employer provided in applicable orders of the IWC; (e) directors, staff, and participants of a live-in alternative to incarceration rehabilitation program for substance abuse; (f) crew members employed on commercial passenger fishing boats; and (g) participants in national service programs.

In addition to these state-wide laws, various local laws have been passed regarding paid sick leave, paid parental leave and minimum wage. You can read a more detailed summary of these and other pending bills here

Are you ready to implement the changes created by the new laws?  What pending laws will affect your workplace?  Share your thoughts on this topic with SHRM Tulare/Kings in our new Member Forum.  To access the page, log on, then select the Member Forum page from the Members menu.

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