Here’s your annual roundup of new California employment laws. Since we’ve discussed many of these laws when they were enacted, I’m including links to those earlier discussions.
- Changes to California’s Fair Pay Act – When it took effect at the start of 2016, the Fair Pay Act was the most exacting equal pay law in the country. Effective January 1, 2017, following the passage of SB 1063 and AB 1676, it’s expanding significantly. First, the requirement of equal pay for substantially similar work is expanding beyond gender to include race and ethnicity. Second, AB 1676 amended the Labor Code to emphasize that “prior salary shall not, by itself, justify any disparity in compensation.”
- “All Gender” Bathroom Bill – Effective March 1, 2017, businesses are prohibited from labeling any “single-user toilet facility” as either “male” or “female.” AB 1732 defines “single-user toilet facility” as “a toilet facility with no more than one water closet and one urinal with a locking mechanism controlled by the user.”
- New arbitration protections for California workers – Two new statutes, SB 1007 and SB 1241, increase protections for employees arbitrating workplace disputes. SB 1007 gives any party to arbitration proceedings “the right to have a certified shorthand reporter transcribe any deposition, proceeding, or hearing as the official record.” SB 1241 says that employers can’t require California employees to arbitrate or litigate their claims in other states or require arbitrators to apply other state’s laws.
- Employers must notify employees of their right to domestic violence leave – Under AB 2377, companies with 25 or more employees must notify employees of their rights to take protected time off for domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. Employers must “inform each employee of his or her rights” upon hire and at any time thereafter upon request. The Labor Commissioner will develop a form for these purposes and publish it by July 1, 2017.
- Prohibition against asking applicants about juvenile convictions – AB 1843 prohibits employers from asking about or considering information relating to arrests, convictions, or other proceedings that occurred while an applicant or employee “was subject to the process and jurisdiction of juvenile court law.”
- Minimum wage increase – As of January 1, 2017, the minimum wage for companies with 26 or more employees will increase to $10.50 per hour.
- Expanded prohibitions on smoking at work – New laws expanded the already-strict prohibitions to owner-operated businesses, e-cigarettes, and vaporizers.
In addition to statewide legislation, local ordinances continue to proliferate. These include paid parental leave in San Francisco and numerous cities that have enacted their own minimum wage and paid sick leave requirements.
What can employers do to get ready?
- Review pay practices to identify potential disparities based on race and ethnicity, as well as gender.
- Ensure that applications do not elicit information on prior salary or juvenile convictions.
- Obtain and install appropriate signage for single-user restrooms.
- Make sure that human resources staff, hiring managers, and supervisors understand the changes affecting them.
- Wonder what surprises the legislature has for us in the year ahead!