Changes to California Employment Laws in 2015 that Every Employer Should Know

By Jennifer A. Grady, Esq. and Gayane Khechoomian, Esq.

California-State-Capitol1The California Legislature was quite active in 2014, resulting in several substantial changes to the law for 2015 that are employee-friendly.  Employers should take note of the changes to the law described below.

I. CHANGES TO WAGE AND LABOR LAWS

1. Minimum Wage Increases

The minimum wage increased statewide, with even higher increases in particular cities:

  • California’s minimum wage of $9.00 will increase again to $10.00 on January 1, 2016;
  • San Francisco wages will increase to $11.05 on January 1, 2015; then to $12.25 in May; wages will increase every year thereafter until the minimum wage reaches $15.00 in 2018;
  • Oakland will increase to $12.25 on March 2, 2015;
  • San Diego will increase to $9.75 on January 1, 2015;
  • Note: exempt employees must meet new minimum wage laws

2. New Paid Sick Leave Requirements

One of the most confusing and game-changing changes to the law is the new paid sick leave law requirements for all employers.

Starting on July 1, 2015, a new law affecting millions of Californians will require that employers – both public and private – provide paid sick leave to all their employees. The “Healthy, Workplace, Healthy Families Act” (AB-1522) signed into effect by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. applies to all employees who work in California for 30 or more days in a year. The law defines “employer” as any person employing another under any appointment or contract of hire” regardless of how many employees they have,  and covers employees whether they are full-time, part-time, seasonal, or temporary. Specifically, the new provision provides that employees who work 30 or more days within a year from commencement of their employment will earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave for every thirty (30) hours worked.

Employees become entitled to their sick leave beginning on the ninetieth (90th) date of employment. However, an employer may limit an employee’s use of paid sick days to 24 hours—or three (3) days—in each year of employment. Click here for more information on this topic, or schedule an appointment to speak with an attorney about how to implement these new procedures.

3. AB 1897: Joint Liability for Staffing Agencies & Labor Contractors

The changes to this law apply when a worker is hired by a staffing agency (labor contractor) to work for an employer.  Both parties share civil legal responsibility and civil liability for all workers supplied by that labor contractor for the payment of wages and the failure to obtain valid workers’ compensation coverage. The bill would prohibit a client employer from shifting to the labor contractor legal duties or liabilities under workplace safety provisions with respect to workers provided by the labor contractor.  The law imposes all civil legal responsibility and liability on the client employer, defined as having 25 or more workers, for any wage-and-hour violations committed by the labor contractor for the labor contractor’s employees it supplied pursuant to the contract with the client employer.

A worker who believes he or she has not been properly paid or has suffered an injury and there is no workers’ compensation policy may pursue an administrative claim or civil action against the client employer, labor contractor or both.  Additionally, it imposes civil liability and legal responsibility on the client employer for the labor contractor’s failure to secure valid workers’ compensation coverage for the labor contractor’s employees working pursuant to the contract with the client employer.

4. AB 2074: Liquidated damages and Statutes of Limitations for Wage Claims

The bill clarifies that the statute of limitations for liquidated damages for wage claims is the same as the underlying wage claim.  This means that if the statute of limitations on a wage claim is three (3) years, the statute of limitations on the liquidated damages claim is also three (3) years.

5. AB 2288: Child Labor Protection Act

Under this act, an individual may be entitled to treble damages if he or she is teenagersdiscriminated against in the terms or conditions of his or her employment because he or she filed a claim or civil action alleging a violation of the California Labor Code that arose while he or she was a minor. The new law specifies that the statute of limitations for a child labor violation is tolled until the child reaches the age of 18.

II. MILEAGE REIMBURSEMENT

© Jennifer Grady

© Jennifer Grady

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2015, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car, van, pickup, or panel truck will be:

57.5 cents per mile for business miles driven
23 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

Even thought the cost of fuel has declined, mileage reimbursement rates have increased over last year’s rates in order to account for the increase in cost for wear and tear and repairs.  Click here for the full article.

III. OSHA REQUIREMENTS

Photo credit: BackBoris2012 http://bit.ly/16lqWde

Photo credit: BackBoris2012 http://bit.ly/16lqWde

1. AB 1634: Safety violations

This law will require employers to correct a serious or willful safety violation immediately, regardless of intent to appeal, unless the employer can demonstrate, without a doubt, that a stay or suspension of abatement will not adversely affect the health and safety of employees.  The employer must request a stay or suspension of abatement by filing a written, verified petition with supporting declarations within 10 days after the issuance of the order or decision.  The bill is designed to prevent employees from having to work in unsafe conditions during the appeals process.

2. AB 326: Requirement to Email OSHA to Report On-the-Job Injuries

This law amends the labor code and requires every employer to make an immediate report by telephone or e-mail of every case involving an employee’s serious injury or illness or death to the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. Prior law required an employer to make an immediate report by telephone or telegraph of every case involving an employee’s serious injury or illness or death to the division.

       New Rules:

As of Jan. 1, 2015:

  • Employers must notify OSHA within eight (8) hours when an employee is killed on the job.
  • Employers must notify OSHA within 24 hours if an employee suffers a work-related hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye
  • Bakeries, auto dealers, liquor stores, and museums must now track on the job injuries.

IV. DISCRIMINATION

1. AB 2751: $10,000 Fine for Unfair Retaliation

Current law prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee who files a complaint with DLSE.  This bill clarifies that the fines go to the employee, prohibits adverse action when an employee updates personal information based on “a lawful change of name, social security number or federal employment authorization document,” and authorizes victims who are threatened to bring civil actions.

2. AB 1443: Interns and Volunteers

This law expands FEHA protection against discrimination and harassment to unpaid interns and volunteers.

Photo Credit Buzzghana.com

Photo Credit Buzzghana.com

There shall be no discrimination in the selection, termination, training, or other treatment of unpaid interns and volunteers, however, the law does not change the rules regarding the very limited exceptions for unpaid interns.  To learn more about when it is legal to use an unpaid intern, and when workers should be paid minimum wage, click here.

3. AB 60: Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants

TDrivers License fedlimhis law requires the DMV to issue driver licenses to applicants who are unable to submit satisfactory proof of legal presence in the U.S.  Employers cannot discriminate based on their status and should make sure they are using the proper forms of ID for I-9 purposes.  Click here for more information about this topic.

4. AB 1825: Mandatory Sexual Harassment Training for Supervisors

This law requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide two (2) hours of sexual harassment prevention training to all supervisors, and should now include training for “abusive conduct.”  However, as a “best practice”, employers with 50 of fewer employees should also consider providing sexual harassment training to its supervisors.

V. CHANGES TO ARBITRATION AGREEMENTS

The following laws regarding arbitration reduce confidentiality and make arbitration less attractive for employers.  For more detailed information, read this article.

1. AB 2617: Arbitration Clause Prohibition for Civil Rights Violations

According to his law, employers can not require employees to sign a mandatory arbitration agreement that waives their right to sue for violence or hate crimes. It prohibits mandatory, pre-dispute arbitration agreements in contracts for the provision of goods or services, to the extent an individual is required to waive the right to bring a civil action.

2. AB 802: Transparency in Publishing of Arbitration Outcomes

This law provides for transparency in arbitration as it requires major arbitration providers such as JAMS and AAA to publish at least quarterly on their websites detailed information concerning consumer matters they have arbitrated, and to make the report accessible on the private arbitration company’s Internet Web site, as specified.

VI. NEW POSTING REQUIREMENTS

The following posters must be posted in a conspicuous place, such as a break room or near time keeping systems.  For more detailed information, click here.

1. Paid Sick Leave (January 2015)

2. Workplace Discrimination (January 2015)

  • New protections for unpaid interns and volunteers.
  • New definition for ‘national origin’ category of discrimination includes possession of driver’s license issued to an undocumented person.
  • Requires employers of 50 or more to provide abusive conduct prevention training, in addition to sexual harassment prevention training already required.

VII. EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK UPDATES

Employee Handbooks should be updated at least annually to reflect changes in California law, as well as a company’s internal policies.  The following portions should be updated.

  • National Labor Relations Board Ruling: prohibits preventing use of company email systems for statutorily protected communications during non-working time.
  • AB 2536: Expands definition of “emergency rescue personnel” to include employees who are officers, employees or members of a disaster response entity sponsored by the state.
  • SB 1034:  officially prohibits health insurance policies from imposing any waiting or affiliation period upon any individual. Employers may not apply a waiting period that exceeds 90 days after the start of employment.

To ensure that your business remains compliant with these new laws, and to update your Policies and Procedures,consult a licensed California employment attorney.EmployeeHandbook_Pop_6467 Employee Handbooks should be updated at least annually in order to keep up with the changes in California employment law.

To schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation with The Grady Firm’s employment attorneys, call (323) 450-9010, or fill out a Contact Request Form. The Grady Firm attorneys can update your business’ company policies/Employee Handbook, create new policies, prepare employment forms, and explain the detailed nuances of the new law.

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