United States: Last Call: California Legislature Makes Final Push For 2015 Session

Last Updated: August 20 2015
Article by Christopher E. Cobey

The California Legislature reconvened on Monday, August 17, to finish its work for the 2015 regular session, which must end by September 11. The following bills are of particular interest to California private sector employers:

  • Increasing the minimum wage statewide (SB 3)
  • Prohibiting employers from requiring pre-dispute binding arbitration agreements from applicants or current employees (AB 465)
  • Expanding the scope and coverage of the California Family Rights Act (SB 406)
  • Expanding the scope of California's equal pay act (358)

Previously, Governor Jerry Brown called the Legislature into extraordinary session to address the topics of health care and transportation funding.  These sessions will run concurrently with the regular legislative session.

Since our last report, here's a snapshot of what's moving, what's stalled, and what's been signed.

Bills Still Moving

Major bills

SB 3 would increase the California statewide minimum wage, set future increases (decreases not permitted) to a specified economic index, and allow cities and counties to have their own minimum wages, if higher.

AB 465 would prohibit binding pre-dispute arbitration agreements as a condition of hiring or continued employment.

SB 406 would expand the application of the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) to include employers of 25 or more employees (down from current application of 50 or more employees), and would expand other provisions regarding the CFRA's scope.

AB 1509 would extend current employment retaliation protections to an employee who is a family member of a person who engaged in, or is perceived to have engaged in, legally protected conduct.

SB 358 would expand the bases upon which an employee could file a private right of action under California's equal pay act, would place the burden of proof on the employer to justify any gender-based salary differentials, and would allow employees to disclose their wages to investigate a possible equal pay act claim.

AB 1017 would prohibit employers from requesting an applicant's salary history information.

AB 1506 would, under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), provide an employer with the right to cure a violation of failing to provide employees with a wage statement containing the inclusive dates of the pay period and the name and address of the legal entity that is the employer.

SB 667 would extend the duration of the state's disability benefit period from 14 to 60 days.

Bills of limited application

SB 579 would expand the authorized reasons for which an employee can take job-protected time off from work under the Family School Partnership Act and amend specified "kin care" sick leave provisions.

AB 272 would provide that a person deputized or appointed by the proper authority as a peace officer, including a person deputized or appointed as a reserve deputy sheriff or a reserve city police officer, is an employee of the appointing authority for purposes of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

SB 588 would authorize the Labor Commissioner to file a lien or levy on an employer's property to assist an employee in collecting unpaid wages where there is a judgment against the employer.

AB 1354 would require employers with 100 or more employees to submit a nondiscrimination program, including a specified workforce analysis, to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) prior to becoming a contractor or subcontractor with the state; contractors and subcontractors would also be required to submit periodic compliance reports, and the DFEH could require approval and certification of nondiscrimination programs.

AB 970 would authorize the Labor Commissioner to issue a citation to enforce local minimum wage and overtime laws against an employer or person acting for an employer for violations related to reimbursements for expenses.

AB 622 expands the definition of an unlawful employment practice to prohibit an employer from using the E-Verify system when not required by federal law to check the employment authorization status of an existing employee or an applicant who has not received an offer of employment, and provides for a civil penalty of $10,000 for each violation.

AB 676 would prohibit an employer from discriminating against prospective job applicants on the basis of employment status, and would institute a civil penalty against an employer that discriminates against unemployed job applicants.

AB 883 would prohibit an employer from advertising or announcing a job that discriminates against an applicant who is a current or former public employee.

Bills for specific employers

AB 561 would set deadlines for the Agricultural Labor Relations Board to order remedies within one year of finding liability, and would require employers appealing an order to post a bond for the entire economic value of the order.

AB 621 would create a limited amnesty program for port drayage companies that voluntarily enter into a consent decree with the Labor Commissioner related to misclassification of employees.

AB 525 would significantly alter the current franchisee-franchisor relationship, especially regarding the options and remedies available to the franchisee for the nonrenewal of a franchise.

Bills Signed

AB 359, which takes effect January 1, 2016, extends specified job protections to some grocery workers in the event of a sale of a grocery store.  In an unusual August 17 signing message, Governor Brown noted there were certain ambiguities in the bill signed that he expected would be clarified by the Legislature in a bill sent to him before the regular session ended September 11.

Bills Vetoed

AB 251 would have provided a statutory definition for a "de minimis" public subsidy that does not trigger the requirements of prevailing wage law.

Copies of all bills, committee, and floor reports, and other information can be found at http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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Christopher E. Cobey
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