New –  2015 California Employment Laws

As is often the case, California has enacted New-2015 California Employment Laws that will take effect throughout 2015. It is important for employers to become aware of and adhere to these laws. Below is a synopsis of some of these laws:

Healthcare Waiting Day Periods

SB 1034 clarifies that employer-imposed waiting periods are governed by the 90-day period authorized under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Mandatory Paid Sick Leave

AB 1522, the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, requires employers to provide paid sick leave to any employee who worked in California for 30 days at an accrual rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. Employers are allowed to limit an employee’s use of paid sick leave to 24 hours or three days in each year of employment and put a maximum cap on total accrual of 48 hours or six days.

This law contains recordkeeping and notice requirements, including a new poster requirement, as well as penalties for noncompliance.   Employers with existing sick leave or PTO policies should contact their employment attorney to discuss this new law.

The effective date for employers to begin providing the paid sick leave benefit is July 1, 2015.

Time Off for Emergency Duty: Expanded Category

AB 2536 makes changes to existing law allowing emergency rescue personnel time off to perform emergency duty. It expands the definition of “emergency rescue personnel” to include an officer, employee or member of a disaster medical response team sponsored or requested by the state.

This law imposes certain notice requirements on employees.

Harassment Prevention Training: Prevention of Abusive Conduct

AB 2053 requires employers that are subject to the mandatory sexual harassment prevention training requirement for supervisors – employers with 50 or more employees, including part time and temporary employees – to include a component on the prevention of “abusive conduct” beginning January 1, 2015. The law defines “abusive conduct” as conduct of an employer or employee in the workplace, with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests.”

Prohibition of Discrimination Against Public Assistance Recipients: Public Reports

AB 1792 creates new protections for employees. The law adds Government Code section 13084, which prohibits an employer from:

  • Discharging, discriminating or retaliating in any manner against an employee who enrolls in a public assistance program;
  • Refusing to hire a beneficiary for reason of being enrolled in a public assistance program; and
  • Disclosing to any person or entity that an employee receives or is applying for public assistance, unless otherwise permitted by state or federal law.

“Employer” is defined by the law as an individual or organization with more than 100 employees who are beneficiaries of the Medi-Cal program.

Protections for Unpaid Interns and Volunteers

AB 1443 provides protections against harassment to unpaid interns and volunteers, as well as protections against discrimination in an unpaid internship or in another limited duration program that provides unpaid work experience. This law also extends religious belief protections and religious accommodation requirements to anyone in any program that provides unpaid experience in the workplace or industry.

Immigration-Related Protections

AB 2751 expands the definition of an unfair immigration-related practice to include threatening to file or filing a false report or complaint with any state or federal agency, revises Labor Code section 1024.6, which prohibits employers from discriminating, retaliating, or taking any adverse action against an employee because the employee updates or attempts to update his/her personal information, to state that an employer cannot discriminate or retaliate against an employee who updates his/her personal information based on a lawful change of name, Social Security number, or federal employment authorization document.

Nondiscrimination: Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Persons

As a result of AB 1660, employers are prohibited from discriminating against an individual because he or she holds or presents a driver’s license that was authorized by AB 60 to undocumented individuals. The law amends FEHA to specify that “national origin” discrimination includes discrimination on the basis of possessing a driver’s license granted under section 12801.9 of the Vehicle Code.

As a result of AB 1660, employers cannot require a person to present a driver’s license unless such license is required by law or by the employer and the employer’s requirement is not prohibited by law. Employers do not violate AB 1660, for example, if they are required to comply with federal I-9 verification under the Immigration and Nationality Act.   The employer must treat the driver license information as confidential.

Modification of Workplace Violence Prevention Plans: Hospitals

SB 1299 requires Cal/OSHA to adopt standards by January 1, 2016, that require specified types of hospitals, including general acute care hospitals or acute psychiatric hospitals, to adopt workplace violence prevention plans as part of the hospitals’ injury and illness prevention plans. The intent is to protect health care workers and other facility personnel from aggressive and violent behavior.

Failure to Fix Safety Hazards Penalties

AB 1634 prohibits the state Occupational Safety and Health Appeals (OSHA) Board from modifying civil penalties for abatement or credit for abatement unless the employer fixed the violation at an initial inspection or a subsequent inspection prior to issuance of the citation; or submitted a signed statement and supporting evidence within 10 working days after the date fixed for abatement showing that the violation has been fixed.

In cases of serious, repeat serious or willful serious violations, AB 1634 generally will prohibit a stay or suspension of an abatement requirement while an appeal or petition for reconsideration is pending, unless the employer can demonstrate that a stay or suspension will not adversely affect the health and safety of employees.

Workplace Safety Reports Submission Process

AB 326 now allows employers to email their reports of a work-related serious injury, illness or death to the Division of Occupational Safety and Health in contrast to the previous requirement to immediately report the injury by telephone or telegraph.

Timeframe for Recovery of Wages: Liquidated Damages

AB 2074 states that a lawsuit seeking to recover liquidated damages for minimum wage violations can be filed any time before the expiration of the statute of limitations that applies to the underlying wage claim, which is three years.

Increased Liability for Employers that Contract for Labor

AB 1897’s intent is holding employers accountable for wage-and-hour violations when they use staffing agencies or other labor contractors to supply workers for their business. The law holds a “client employer” liable if a labor contractor fails to pay its workers properly or fails to provide workers’ compensation coverage for those employees.

Waiting Time Penalties

AB 1723 institutes a procedural change in the current law, as it authorizes the Labor Commissioner to include in citations it produces pursuant to Labor Code Section 1197.1, all applicable penalties for an employers’ willful failure to timely pay wages to an employee who has resigned or who has been discharged.

Child Labor Law Violations: Increased Remedies

AB 2288, the Child Labor Protection Act of 2014, provides additional penalties for violations of California labor laws regarding employment of minors. The law adds section 1311.5 to the Labor Code and provides Treble damages if an individual is discriminated or retaliated against because he/she filed a claim or civil action alleging a violation of employment laws that occurred while he/she was a minor; a penalty of $25,000 to $50,000 for “Class A” violations involving minors 12 years of age or younger and, the statute of limitations for claims that arise from violations of employment laws is suspended until a minor is 18 years of age.