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New Employment Laws Affecting California Businesses in 2015

December 11, 2014 Hilary Weddell

The California Legislature recently enacted a number of new employment laws that will take effect in 2015 that will impact businesses in California.  With the New Year quickly approaching, employers should review their handbooks and other policies, and update them accordingly.  Below are just five of the new laws that will take effect in 2015. 

Mandatory Paid Sick Leave (AB 1522)

The most noteworthy new law is the mandatory paid sick leave law that takes effect on July 1, 2015.  AB 1522, which adds sections 245-249 to the Labor Code, requires employers to provide at least three (3) paid sick days (24 hours) each year to each employee who works more than 30 days in California.  It also includes detailed recordkeeping and notice requirements.  For more information on this complex piece of Legislation, see California Becomes Second State to Mandate Paid Sick Leave.

Extension of Discrimination and Harassment Protections to Unpaid Interns and Volunteers (AB 1443)

AB 1443 amends the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to add unpaid interns and volunteers to the list of individuals protected from harassment and discrimination.  Specifically, the bill amends Government Code section 12940(c)—which currently prohibits discrimination in apprentice training programs—to also preclude discrimination against interns and volunteers on the basis of any legally protected classification (e.g., age, race, gender, disability, etc.), to prohibit sexual harassment of them, and to extend rights to religious belief accommodation requirements to them.

Expansion of Immigration-Related Protections (AB 2751)

This bill amends Labor Code section 1019 to provide further protection to employees engaging in protected behavior from “unfair immigration-related practices.”  Previously, the law prohibited employers from retaliating against employees who exercised their rights under state labor and employment laws.  Existing law prohibits employers from, among other things, threatening to file or filing a false police report or threatening to contact or contacting immigration authorities.  The new law makes it unlawful for any employer to threaten to file or file a false report with any state or federal agency, not just the police or immigration authorities.  An employer that violates this provision can be subjected to a $10,000 penalty for each violation. 

AB 2751 also makes changes to Labor Code section 1024.6 to clarify that employers may not discriminate or retaliate against employees who update their personal information “based on a lawful change of name, social security number, or federal employment authorization document.”

Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Persons (AB 1660)

Under AB 60, a bill passed in 2013, California will begin issuing driver’s licenses on January 1, 2015, to undocumented persons who are able to submit satisfactory proof of identity and California residence.  These licenses are often referred to as “AB 60 driver’s licenses” after last year’s bill that authorized them.  AB 60 made it a violation of law to discriminate against persons who hold such licenses.

AB 1660, passed in 2014, will expand protections for holders of AB 60 driver’s licenses.  The bill amends FEHA to specify that discrimination on the basis of national origin includes discrimination against individuals because they hold such licenses.  However, the law specifically clarifies that an employer’s actions to comply with federal I-9 verification requirements do not violate California law.

Increased Liability for Employers that Contract for Labor (AB 1897)

Employers who contract for labor (“client employer”) through staffing or other labor contractors will be responsible for wage-and-hour violations committed by the staffing agencies or other labor contractor for the employees supplied to the client employer.  AB 1897 defines “client employer” as “a business entity, regardless of its form, that obtains or is provided workers to perform labor within its usual course of business from a labor contractor.”  The definition of client employer does not include companies with less than 25 workers, companies with  five (5) or fewer workers supplied by a labor contractor at any given time, and the state or any political subdivision of the state.  The new law does not prohibit a client employer from contracting for indemnification from the labor contractor for the labor contractor’s failure to pay wages or obtain workers’ compensation coverage.

 

Hilary Weddell is an attorney with McManis Faulkner whose practice focus is employment law.  For more information, please visit mcmanislaw.com