A host of new employment laws take effect in 2014, many of which went into effect on January 1, 2014. Below is a summary of a few of the new laws affecting the employment arena in 2014.
Sexual Harassment Definition
SB 292 amends the definition of harassment to clarify that sexually harassing conduct does not need to be motivated by sexual desire. The law clarifies that hostile treatment can amount to unlawful sexual harassment regardless of whether the treatment was motivated by any sexual desire.
New Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking
AB 400 makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate or retaliate against an employee because of his/her status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. The bill also adds a reasonable accommodation requirement for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, such as the implementation of safety measures.
AB 10 raises California’s current minimum wage of $8.00 per hour to $9.00 per hour effective July 1, 2014, with a second increase to $10.00 per hour effective January 1, 2016. This is the first increase to the minimum wage since January 1, 2008.
Whistle Blower Protections
SB 496 expands whistleblower protections for employees under Labor Code §1102.5 who have reason to believe that their employer is violating a federal or state statute. The bill expands protections to include reports alleging a violation of a local rule or regulation. It also protects employees who disclose, or may disclose, information regarding alleged violations “to a person with authority over the employee or another employee who has authority to investigate, discover or correct the violation.” SB 496 also prohibits retaliation against an employee because the employer “believes the employee disclosed or may disclose information.”
AB 263 amends Labor Code §98.6, which protects employees who assert their rights under the Labor Code. For example, the bill expands protected conduct under Labor Code §98.6 to specifically prohibit retaliation or adverse action by an employer because of a written or oral complaint by an employee that he/she is owed unpaid wages. It also adds a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per employee per violation of Labor Code §98.6.
Employee Wage Withholdings – Criminal Penalty
SB 390 creates a criminal penalty for an employer that fails to remit withholdings from an employee’s wages that were made pursuant to state, local or federal law.
Paid Family Leave Benefits
Starting July 1, 2014, SB 770 expands Paid Family Leave (“PFL”) wage-replacement benefits for employees to include benefits for time taken off to care for a seriously ill grandparent, grandchild, sibling, or parent-in-law. PFL does not create the right to a leave of absence, but provides employees with some a wage replacement during a qualifying absence.
SB 530 amends Labor Code §432.7 to prohibit an employer from considering or from asking any applicant to disclose information concerning a conviction that has been judicially expunged, sealed or dismissed.
Unfair Immigration Practices
AB 263 prohibits an employer from engaging in “unfair immigration-related practices” when an employee asserts rights protected under the Labor Code. The bill authorizes various penalties against employers who engage in such practices, including a private right of action.
Meal and Rest Periods – Expansion to Heat Illness Recovery Periods
Meal and rest break periods are expanded to “recovery” periods taken to prevent heat illness. In short, an employer cannot require certain employees to work during a recovery period mandated by state law under Cal/OSHA’s heat illness standard.