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January 30, 2015

Employment Law Update

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New Employment Legislation for 2015Employment Law Update 2015

As typical, 2015 brings with it new legislation affecting California employers.  Below is a summary of the new laws likely to impact your business.

Wage-and-Hour Law

AB 1897:  Under this law, employers that contract for labor may be held liable to the labor contractor’s employees for the contractor’s wage-and-hour violations.  In essence, if the labor contractor fails to pay its employees, the aggrieved employees may now seek to hold the “client employer” responsible.  Employers should thus use caution in selecting reputable labor contractors that will comply with their legal responsibilities.

AB 1723:  This bill expands the Labor Commissioner’s authority to cite employers for “waiting time” penalties for an employer’s willful failure to timely pay wages upon the resignation or termination of an employee.  Employers may contest the citation and request a hearing challenging the assessment and/or penalties.

AB 2074:  This law sets a three year statute of limitations for employees to seek liquidated damages for minimum-wage violations.  Previously no statute of limitations expressly governed recovery of liquidated damages and some courts applied a one-year statute of limitations.

AB 2751:  Under existing law, employers may be liable for up to $10,000 in penalties for discriminating, retaliating, or taking adverse action against any employee for complaining of Labor Code violations.  This bill permits “the employee or employees who suffered the violation” to recover the penalties.

SB 1360:  This bill was passed to clarify existing law regarding recovery periods taken for heat illness; such recover periods are paid breaks and count as hours worked.

Leaves of Absence and Benefits

AB 1522:  Starting July 1, 2015, employers with California employees must provide paid-sick leave.  A full discussion of the law’s requirements may be found at:  http://www.longlevit.com/publications/californias-new-paid-sick-leave-law/

AB 2536:  Existing law permits leaves of absence for certain employees who serve as “emergency rescue personnel.”  The bill expands the definition of “emergency rescue personnel” to include an officer, employee, or member of a disaster medical response entity sponsored or requested by the state.  In addition, employees who are “health care providers” must now notify their employer at the time they become designated as emergency rescue personnel and when they are notified that they will be deployed as a result of that designation.

Healthcare Law

SB 1034:  The federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act prohibits a group health plan and a health insurance issuer from offering group health insurance coverage from applying a waiting period that exceeds 90 days.  Under certain provisions of California law, however, the waiting period could not exceed 60 days.  This bill brings California law into accord with federal with respect to the 90-day waiting period.

Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation Law

AB 2053:  Under this law, employers required to provide sexual-harassment training to supervisors must now “include prevention of abusive conduct as a component” thereof.  “Abusive conduct” is defined as conduct a “reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests.”  It “may include repeated infliction of verbal abuse, such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets, verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating, or the gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work performance.”

The law does not purport to create a new category of liability on employers and “[a] single act shall not constitute abusive conduct, unless especially severe and egregious.”

The law provides no guidance regarding how training should be done or the amount of time that should be devoted to such training.  As such, employers should consult with experienced employment counsel to ensure compliance with the laws new training requirement.  If necessary, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing has the authority to compel employers, by court order, to conduct “abusive conduct” training.

If an employer violates the new training requirements, it may be subject to a court order or an order from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing requiring compliance. Employers can also expect compliance, or the alleged lack of compliance, to come up in various types of employment litigation.

AB 1660:  Under recently enacted law, the DMV is required to issue a driver’s license to a qualified individual even if he or she cannot submit satisfactory proof that he/she is lawfully in the United States per federal law.  AB 1660 was enacted to prohibit employers from discriminating against an individual because he or she holds or presents a driver’s license issued under this law, or requiring a person to present a driver’s license unless a driver’s license is (1) required by law; or (2) required by the employer and the employer’s requirement is permitted by law.  Driver’s license information obtained by employers must be treated as private and confidential.  This bill also clarifies that necessary actions taken by employers to comply with federal I-9 verification requirements do not violate California law.

AB 1443:  This law expands the list of individuals protected from discrimination and harassment under the Fair Employment & Housing Act to include unpaid interns and volunteers.

AB 2751:  This bill expands the definition of an unfair immigration-related practice to include threatening to file or filing a false report or complaint with any state or federal agency.  In addition, the law clarifies that employers cannot discriminate or retaliate against an employee who updates his or her personal information (including lawful name of change, social security number, or federal employment  authorization document), unless the changes are directly related to the skill set, qualifications, or knowledge required for the job.  The bill authorizes aggrieved employees to bring civil actions for unfair immigration-related practices.  The bill further authorize a courts suspend certain business licenses held by violating parties for prescribed periods based on the number of violations.

AB 1792:  This law prohibits discrimination or retaliation against employees receiving public assistance, including Medi-Cal.  The bill also prohibits employers from disclosing to any person or entity that an employee receives or is applying for public benefits, unless authorized by state or federal law.

AB 2288:  This law expands the protections afforded to minors.  The bill authorizes treble damages to an person who is “discharged, threatened with discharge, demoted, suspended, retaliated against, subjected to an adverse action, or in any other manner discriminated against in the terms or conditions of his or her employment” because he or she filed a claim or civil action alleging a violation of employment laws that arose while the individual was a minor.  The law also contains a provision tolling statute of limitations for claims arising from violations of employment laws until the minor is 18 years of age.

Unemployment Insurance

AB 1556:  This bill revises unemployment insurance (“UI”) eligibility standards for unemployed individuals enrolled in training or education programs.  It also extends a grace period for workers seeking to continue their UI claims.

SB 1083:  Beginning January 1, 2017, physicians’ assistants will be able to certify an employee’s disability for UI purposes.

SB1314:  This law extends from 20 to 30 days the deadline for an employer to request reconsideration of a ruling determining an employee’s eligibility for UI benefits and for initiating the appeals process.

Conclusion

California Employers should review their impacted policies and procedures to ensure compliance with these new laws.  If you have any questions about California’s new employment laws and how they might impact your business, contact our Employment Law Group.

 

 

Practice Area: Employment
Attorney: Douglas J. Melton, Shane M. Cahill

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