By Michael P. Neufeld
Sacramento, CA – On Wednesday, January 1, a host of new laws will take effect in California related to employment. During the legislative year, Governor Jerry Brown signed a total of 800 bills and vetoed 96. Brown, who is a third-term governor, has now signed over 13,500 regular session bills during his tenure as the state’s top elected official.
Effective January 1, 2014
A.B. 11 – TEMPORARY LEAVES OF ABSENCE – (R-Dan Logue-Chico/03) – State law currently requires employers with 50 or more employees to allow volunteer firefighters in their employ temporary leaves of absence to participate in fire or law enforcement training. This bill expands the current law to include reserve peace officers and emergency rescue personnel.
A.B. 241 – DOMESTIC WORKERS BILL OF RIGHTS - (D-Tom Ammiano-San Francisco/17) – This law provides for specific overtime pay for certain in-home employees, a “domestic work employee who is a personal attendant.” Those with in-home help will need to carefully determine whether the new law applies to them because it contains many specific definitions and exclusions.
A.B. 556 – EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION – (D-Rudy Salas, Jr.-Bakersfield/32) - The list of categories protected from employment discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) now includes “military and veteran status”, and also provides an exemption for an inquiry by an employer regarding military or veteran status for the purpose of awarding a veteran’s preference as permitted by law. The list of protected categories under existing FEHA were: race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical or mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, and age.
S.B. 288 – EMPLOYMENT PROTECTIONS: Time Off – (D-Ted W. Lieu-Redondo Beach/28) - California law currently prohibits employers from firing or discriminating against an employee for taking time off to serve on a jury, an employee who is a victim of a crime for taking time off to appear in court as a witness in any judicial proceeding, or an employee who is a domestic violence victim or a sexual assault victim for taking time off to obtain or attempt to obtain prescribed judicial relief. In addition, employers are prohibited from firing, discriminating or retaliating against an employee who is a victim of specified offenses, for taking requested time off from their job, to appear in court to be heard at any proceeding, including post-arrest release decision, plea, sentencing, post-conviction release decision, or any proceeding in which a right of the victim may be at issue.
S.B. 292 – EMPLOYMENT PROTECTIONS: Sexual Harassment – (D-Ellen M. Corbett-San Leandro/10) - The California Fair Employment and Housing Act currently prohibits employment discrimination or harassment on account of numerous characteristics, including but not limited to race, religious creed, color, national origin, and sex. Corbett’s legislation — signed by Governor Jerry Brown — stipulates that, for purposes of the definition of “harassment because of sex” under these provisions, that sexually harassing conduct need not be motivated by sexual desire.
S.B. 400 – EMPLOYMENT PROTECTIONS: Victims of Stalking - (D-Hannah-Beth Jackson-Santa Barbara/19) – Extends the protection provisions in S.B. 292 to include victims of stalking.
S.B. 390 – EMPLOYEE WAGE WITHHOLDINGS: Criminal Penalty - (D-Roderick D. Wright-Los Angeles/35) - It is currently a crime for an employer to fail to make agreed-upon payments to health and welfare funds, pension funds, or various benefit plans. Existing law provides that the crime be punished as a felony or a misdemeanor, as specified, if the amount unpaid exceeds $500, and as a misdemeanor, if the amount is less than $500. This bill makes it a crime, as described above, for an employer to fail to remit withholdings from an employee’s wages that were made pursuant to state, local, or federal law. The bill prescribes how recovered withholdings or court-imposed restitution, if any, are to be forwarded or paid. This bill imposes a state-mandated local program broadening the definition of a crime.
S.B. 496 – WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTIONS – (D-Roderick D. Wright-Los Angeles/35) – Expands whistleblower protections to include reports alleging a violation of a local rule or regulation. The law also protects employees who disclose, or may disclose, information regarding alleged violations “to a person with authority over the employee who has the authority to investigate, discover or correct the violation.”
S.B. 666 – IMMIGRATION: License Suspension – (D-Darrell Steinberg-Sacramento/6) - This law by the Senate President pro Tem allows the state to suspend or revoke an employer’s business license where that employee reports, or threatens to report, the immigration status of any employee because the employee makes a complaint about employment issues. It also allows for disbarment of attorneys for similar conduct against witnesses or parties in a lawsuit. It establishes a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for each offense.