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New California Employment Laws in 2016

California’s State Legislature’s session for the year ended September 30th, which was the deadline for Governor Jerry Brown to sign or veto any bills sent to his desk. Some of the signed bills in the area of employment law include:

SB 1241: Forced Arbitration Outside of California

Employers can no longer require employees to litigate or arbitrate employment issues outside of California. Companies are now prohibited from pre-selecting the venue for a dispute between themselves and employees. SB 1241 allows employees to void any provision of a contract that violates these prohibitions. The one exception states that it does “not apply to a contract with an employee who is in fact individually represented by legal counsel in negotiating the terms of an agreement to designate either the venue or forum in which a controversy arising from the employment contract may be adjudicated or the choice of law to be applied.” The goal of SB 1241 is to protect employees under California law.

SB 1063: Expanding the Equal Pay Act

The prior law prohibits employers from paying employees a wage rate less than the rate paid to workers who are a different gender. Under the new law, California employers are prohibited from paying employees a lesser wage due to their race and ethnicity for similar work.

SB 1001: Immigrant Employee Rights

This bill is intended to protect immigrant workers from discriminatory employment practices. SB 1001 makes it unlawful for an employer to request more or different documents then required under federal law to verify that an employee is not an unauthorized immigrant. It also prohibits employers from refusing to honor valid work authorization documents as well as “re-verifying an employee’s authorization to work using an unfair immigration-related practice.” A penalty of up to $10,000 may also be recoverable if an employer is found to be in violation. SB 1001 will become effective January 1, 2017.

SB 3: Minimum Wage

The amendment increases minimum wage to $15/hr.  California will implement annual increases starting on January 1, 2017 which will affect employers with 26 or more employees and the increase for employers with 25 or few employees will be delayed.  The increases also might be delayed for other reasons such as “state general economic, or state budgetary, reasons” but can only be used twice during the phase-in period. The amendment also allows counties or cities to enact their own minimum wages, which could be higher than the state’s.

AB 908: Paid Family Leave Expansion

This bill increases employees’ paid benefits while on family leave or state disability. The prior level of benefits was 55 percent and will now be raised to 60 or 70 percent depending on the employee’s income. The Paid Family Leave program allows an employee up to six weeks of wage replacement benefits. Finally, the amendment abolishes the “7 day waiting period,” allowing benefits to be payable immediately. The increased benefits will start on January 1, 2018.

Along with the bills mentioned above, two other significant bills were passed: AB 1066: Expanding Overtime for Farm Workers and SB 836: Private Attorneys General Act Oversight. To see our articles on the above-mentioned bills click below:

Expanding Overtime for Farm Workers

Private Attorneys General Act Oversight