If you are an employee in the State of California, your state legislature has a long list of new laws that your employer is obligated to abide by going into 2019 and beyond. Minimum-wage workers, nursing moms, and many others are likely to benefit from the expanded protections afforded by these new employment laws. Read on to learn more about how life for California employees is, hopefully, about to get a little bit better.

Military Families

Deployments pose many challenges to military families, as dual parent homes are reduced to single parent homes and service members and their loved ones rush to prepare financially, legally, and logistically for an upcoming deployment. Frequently, familial reunions at the end of a deployment can be a challenging period as well.

Under a new expansion of California’s existing paid family leave program, which will go into effect on January 1, 2021, qualified employees with a spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent who has been called to active military duty and deployed can take paid leave to attend to family needs and obligations.

Just like active duty personnel, military families serve too. This new California law allows them to take paid leave while they attend to these important obligations.

Minimum-Wage Workers

On January 1, 2019, minimum wage for employees at companies with 25 or fewer employees will go up to $11 and for companies with 26 or more, it will go up to $12.

This increase is part of a gradual plan to bring California’s minimum wage up to $15 per hour for all businesses by 2022. Once the rate reaches $15, it will be adjusted each year by up to 3.5 percent for inflation.

Women

California has become the first state to mandate publicly held corporations that have their principle offices in California to appoint at least one female director on their boards by Dec. 31, 2019.

Moving forward, some larger boards of public companies must increase their number of female directors even more by 2021. Significant fines will be imposed on companies that fail to comply with the mandate—$100,000 for first time violations and $300,000 for second and subsequent violations.

Nursing Mothers

Currently, California requires employers to provide breastfeeding mothers with a reasonable accommodation to express milk in a private space other than a toilet stall.

While many areas of California law are of the most progressive in the country, this standard for nursing moms does not conform with federal law, which requires that employers provide women with a space other than a bathroom to pump breastmilk.

Beginning in 2019, California law will require the same—bringing nursing moms out of the bathroom and into a separate place, except in circumstances where the requirement would result in undue hardship for the employer.

Sexual Harassment and Discrimination in the Workplace

Possibly as a result of the momentum and awareness generated by the #MeToo movement, California will be implementing several new laws aimed at preventing sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

• SB 1300 will increase an employer’s liability for unlawful harassment committed by nonemployees. It also prohibits judges from awarding employer defendants, who won their case, with attorney fees and other litigation costs, in most circumstances.

• Contractual provisions that prohibit required testimony—by subpoena or written request in litigation—about criminal conduct or sexual harassment are now unenforceable under AB 3109.

• The statute of limitations for bringing a civil action for sexual assault has been expanded to the later of 10 years after the assault or 3 years after the victim reasonably discovers an injury due to the assault.

• If a company has 5 or more employees, it is required to provide two hours of sexual harassment training to all supervisors and one hour of training to all non-supervisor employees within 6 months of being hired or promoted. These trainings must be conducted every 2 years.

• Under AB 2770, an employer may not inform a prospective employer about an employee’s complaint of sexual harassment, if the claim was based on credible evidence and not made with malice, and other communications about sexual harassment in the workplace, without malice.

• An employer may not require an employee, as a condition of employment or continued employment, or for a raise or bonus, to agree not to sue the employer under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), which protects employees from sexual harassment and other kinds of unlawful discrimination, or sign a non-disparagement agreement that relates to the disclosure of unlawful acts in the workplace, like sexual harassment.

Criminal Records

Having a criminal record can make it very difficult to find employment, adding to an individual’s struggle to turn their life around. The employment laws of many states provide specific protections to job applicants to try to lessen the burden of this hurdle.

Pursuant to recent legislative changes, California’s current law prohibiting a prospective employer from considering a judicially sealed or expunged conviction of an applicant will be narrowed to allow employers to consider these sealed and expunged records only if a particular conviction would make it illegal for the applicant to hold that job.

Transparency

The legislature in California took time to narrow and clarify some of its employment laws relating to transparency and access to records:

The Labor Code of California was amended to clarify provisions requiring a ban on salary history inquires and mandating that pay scales be provided to job applicants upon request. The amended version allows employers to ask job applicants about their salary expectations and limit pay scale inquiries to external applicants after an initial interview, which need only include salary and hourly wage ranges.

Furthermore, SB 1252 clarifies California’s existing employee right to inspect and copy their payroll records within 21 days of a request to include the requirement that employers make and provide the copies.

If you are an employee or seeking employment in California and believe your rights under California employment law have been violated, or have questions about how these new laws may impact you, contact our experienced team for a consultation today.