The California legislature got busy in 2015 and Governor Brown signed several bills that impacts small businesses. These are some of the most relevant laws that will go into effect in January 1, 2016 and that may affect you and your business:
Minimum Wages: On January 1, 2016 the minimum wage in California is increasing to $10 per hour and in some other California cities there will increases as well: in Santa Clara and Palo Alto the minimum wage is increasing to $11 and in Richmond to $11.52. Other cities will start with annual increases based on the calendar year percentage change in the CPI-W for the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose metro area, these cities are: Mountain View, Oakland, San Jose, and Sunnyvale.
AB 622 – E-Verify System. This law prohibits employers from using the E-Verify system to check the employment authorization status of existing employees or applicants who have not received an offer of employment. If the employer receives any notification issued by the SSA or the DHS containing information specific to the employee’s E-Verify case or any tentative non-confirmation notice, which indicates the information entered in E-Verify did not match federal records, the employer will be required to provide the notification to the affected person, as soon as practicable.
AB 970 – Enforcement of Employee Claims by Labor Commissioner. This law expands the enforcement powers of the Labor Commissioner to enforce local laws regarding overtime hours or minimum wage provisions and to issue citations and penalties for violations.
AB 987 – Employment Discrimination. A request for accommodation by an employee for a disability or religious belief or observance, without more, is not a “protected legal activity” and does not support a claim for retaliation under the Fair Employment and Housing laws. This bill makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to retaliate or otherwise discriminate against an employee for “requesting” an accommodation for a disability or religious belief or observance, regardless of whether the request was granted.
AB 1509 – Protections for Family Members. This law prohibits an employer from discharging or taking any adverse action against any employee or applicant for employment because the employee or applicant has engaged in protected conduct, such as complaining of discrimination, submitted a whistleblower complaint, complained about unsafe working conditions. This bill also says that an employer will not retaliate against an employee because the employee is a family member of a person who has, or is perceived to have, engaged in any acts protected activities.
SB 358 – Equal Pay Act. Employers will be subject to one of the strictest and most aggressive equal pay laws in the country. The California Fair Pay Act is intended to increase requirements for wage equality and transparency
SB 579 – Employee Time Off. This law amended two sections of the Labor Code: Section 230.8, applies to employers with 25 or more employees. Employers are prohibited from discharging or discriminating against an employee who has custody of a child in a licensed “child day care facility” or in kindergarten or grades 1 to 12, for taking off up to 40 hours of unpaid time off each year for the purpose of participating in school activities, subject to specified conditions. This law expanded the definition of “parent” to include guardian, stepparent, foster parent, or grandparent of, or a person who stands in loco parentis to, a child. This new law also allows employees to take unpaid time off to enroll or reenroll their children in a school or with a licensed child care provider. Section 233, applies to all employers. This bill requires an employer to permit an employee to use sick leave for the purposes specified in the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014. This law expanded the definition of “family member”, now includes: a child regardless of age or dependency; parent; spouse; registered domestic partner; grandparent; grandchild; or siblings.
SB 588 – Judgment Enforcement by Labor Commissioner. It provides the California Labor Commissioner with additional means to enforce judgments against employers arising from the employers’ nonpayment of wages.
You have a lot of new laws that you may have to include in your employee handbooks and policies. Make sure your business is compliant and up to date!