We've written about many of the new employment laws
that take effect in California in 2014. But as the year winds down,
here's a handy-dandy list of the most significant ones (with
links to our earlier entries).
Expanding paid family leave rights - Like
State Disability Insurance, Paid Family Leave is paid for with
deductions from employees' paychecks. When enacted, the law
provided up to six weeks of wage replacement benefits to workers
who took time off to care for a seriously ill child, spouse,
parent, or domestic partner, or to bond with a newborn or a child
recently placed through adoption or foster care. Now those rights
will extend to workers who need time to care for siblings,
grandparents, grandchildren, and parents-in-law. And while
we're on the topic, San Francisco employers need to also pay
attention to San Francisco's new Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance.
Increasing the state minimum wage –
Currently $8 per hour, it goes up to $9 on July 1, 2014 and $10 on
January 1, 2016. This affects not only nonexempt workers, but also
those working under the administrative, professional, and executive
exemptions in California (who must earn a salary equivalent to at
least two times the state minimum wage for full-time employment to
qaulify for the exemption).
Expanded definition of sexual harassment -
This new law states that sexual harassment doesn't have to be
motivated by sexual desire. No case or statute said otherwise, but
the legislature saw fit to unanimously pass a law saying what
sexual harassment isn't. This will only cause
confusion for courts and juries trying to determine what sexual
New protections for crime victims – SB 400 takes existing laws that prohibit
discrimination against victims of domestic violence or sexual
assault and expands them to include stalking victims. It also
requires employers to reasonably accommodate (which may include
taking safety measures) victims of domestic violence, sexual
assault, or stalking. In addition, SB 288 prohibits discrimination
against victims of specified felonies (including child
abuse, domestic violence, physical abuse of the elderly
or a dependent adults, sexual assault, and solicitation for murder)
and requires that they be given time off to appear in court.
New protections for immigrants – Thinking about reporting
an employee who complained about Labor Code violations to
Immigration and Customs Enforcement? Bad idea!
Under AB 263, that's an "unfair
immigration-related practices." Well what if you just threaten
to report him? Another bad idea! (Seriously, where do you come up
with these?) Employers who do that can lose their business licenses
(pursuant to SB 666) and be charged with criminal extortion
(pursuant to AB 524)
AB 556 makes "military and veteran
status" a protected category under the Fair Employment and Housing Act – For
those keeping score (or responsible for updating personnel
policies), they join race, religious creed, color, national origin,
ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical
condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender
identity, gender expression, age, and sexual orientation.
While we wait to learn which employment laws are being
taken off the books to make room for these new ones (as if), here
are steps employers can take to better protect themselves:
Make sure personnel policies and handbooks are up to date
(including the lists of categories protected from
Train managers to understand the various types of leave
available to California employees (or at least to refer inquiries
to someone knowledgeable);
Regarding the expanding definition of sexual harassment:
Ensure that personnel policies prohibit not just harassment,
but also vulgar language, sexual innuendo, sexual propositions,
threats, and bullying.
Be vigilant in enforcing those policies.
Respond to complaints of bullying, crude behavior, and
mistreatment that aren't necessarily "because of
sex" as you would to a sexual harassment complaint. This means
you need to conduct (or have someone qualified conduct) a prompt,
fair, and thorough investigation and, where necessary, take steps
reasonably calculated to stop the behavior.
Most importantly, continue following our widely praised blog for further updates
on California employment law!
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
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Many employers have policies and procedures that mandate drug and alcohol testing in the wake of a workplace accident, regardless of whether there is any suspicion that the employee involved was impaired.
Policy language which had been commonplace and acceptable for decades has suddenly been deemed to have a "chilling" effect on employee rights under federal labor law, and therefore, is illegal under the National Labor Relations Act.
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