New Year, New Laws for California Employers
Every year, California enacts new employment legislation that benefits workers and imposes new compliance challenges for employers, and 2016 is no exception. Below is a brief summary of this year’s significant new California employment laws:
$10 Minimum Wage
The state minimum wage increased to $10 per hour; the highest state minimum in the nation (the federal minimum is $7.25 per hour). Employers should keep in mind that with the rise in California’s minimum wage, exempt employees must earn more for employers to classify them as exempt from overtime pay. As of January 1st, the new minimum threshold is $3,466 permonth, up from $3,120 in 2015.
The Fair Pay Act
The California Fair Pay Act, discussed in a previous post, requires equal pay for employees performing substantially similar (as opposed to equal) work regardless of gender. The new requirement extends to different locations run by the same company, not just “the same establishment,” as under previous law. The law also protects employees from retaliation if they seek information on wages or discuss them with colleagues.
SB588 and AB970 expanded the power of the California labor commissioner to collect back wages and penalties from employers who fail to pay minimum wage and overtime, force employees to work off the clock, refuse to offer meal and rest breaks, or make illegal paycheck deductions. Employers (which includes business owners, directors, or managing agents) can now be subject to stop-work orders, levies against their bank accounts, liens against their property, and even criminal and personal liability.
Child Care Leave
SB579 allows employees to take as much as eight hours a month, or up to 40 hours a year, in unpaid time off to find a school or child care provider, to enroll their children or to address a school-related emergency. The law only applies to companies with 25 or more employees.
AB987 forbids an employer to discriminate or retaliate against a worker who requests accommodation because of a disability or a religious belief or observance.
In a substantial victory for the powerful cheerleading lobby, the California legislature passed AB202, which requires cheerleaders for professional sports teams to now be classified as employees, as opposed to independent contractors.
Needless to say, all employers are strongly advised to review their employment policies and procedures to ensure compliance.