Along with New Year resolutions, 2016 brings us a host of new laws affecting the employment arena. Here is a short summary of a few of these new laws:
Minimum Wage Increase: Effective January 1, 2016, the minimum wage in California is increasing to $10 per hour.
Employment Discrimination: Effective January 1, 2016, AB 987 makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to retaliate or otherwise discriminate against an employee for “requesting” an accommodation for a disability or religious belief or observance, regardless of whether the request was granted.
Protections for Family Members of Whistleblowers: Effective January 1, 2016, AB 1509 amended certain Labor Code provisions (e.g., Labor Code Sections 98.6 and 1102.5) which protect employees from retaliation for reporting unlawful conduct or engaging in activity protected by the Labor Code. AB 1509 extends the protections of these provision to an employee who is a family member of another person (e.g., where multiple family members work for the same employer) who engaged in, or was perceived to engage in, the protected conduct or made a com plaint protected by these provisions.
Piece-Rate Compensation: Effective January 1, 2016, AB 1513 added a new Labor Code Section 226.2 (and repealed others), which applies to employees who are compensated on a piece-rate basis. The new law requires employees be compensated for rest and recovery periods and “other nonproductive time” separate from any piece-rate compensation. Employers are to compensate their employees for “other nonproductive time” at an hourly rate that is no less than the applicable minimum wage.
Labor Code Section 226.2 also requires that additional information be added to wage statements, making compliance with wage statements more difficult. For example, in addition to previously required items, itemized wage statements must also include the total hours of compensable rest and recovery periods, the rate of compensation, and the gross wages paid for those periods during the pay period.
Equal Pay Act: Effective January 1, 2016, SB 358, known as the California Fair Pay Act, amends Labor Code Section 1197.5 relating to equal pay in private employment. Under this law, an employer is prohibited from paying employees of the opposite sex lower wage rates for “substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions.” The law also prohibits employers from enacting rules, policies or otherwise engaging in conduct that prohibits employees from disclosing their own wages, discussing the wages of others, asking about other employees’ wages or aiding or encouraging employees to exercise rights under the law.
Employee Time Off: Effective January 1, 2016, SB 579 amended Labor Code Section 230.8, which prohibits employers from discharging or discriminating against an employee who is a parent, guardian or grandparent having custody in a child care provider, kindergarten or grades 1 to 12 for taking time off (up to 40 hours per year) for the purpose of participating in school activities. The new law expanded the definition of “parent” (e.g., to include stepparent, foster parent) and allows employees to take time off to enroll and reenroll their children in a school or with a licensed child care provider.
This law also amends California’s “kin care” provision (Labor Code §233), which requires employers to allow employees to use one-half of their accrued sick leave to care for a “family member,” to permit an employee to use sick leave for the purposes specific in the Paid Sick Leave Law (Labor Code §§ 245 et seq.).
Workers’ Compensation Coverage Expansion for Immigrants: Effective January 1, 2016, SB 623 adds new Labor Code Sections 3733 and 4756 to ensure that regardless of their citizenship or immigration status, an injured employee is not precluded from receiving benefits from the Uninsured Employers Benefits Trust Fund or the Subsequent Injuries Benefits Trust Fund. The bill states that it is declaratory of existing law, meaning it applies retroactively.
Cheerleaders to be Considered Employees of Professional Sports Teams: Effective January 1, 2016, AB 202 adds Labor Code Section 2754 a cheerleader utilized by a California-based professional sports team, directly or through a labor contractor, will be deemed an employee. The professional sports team will be required to ensure the cheerleader is classified and treated as an employee, thus preventing them from being treated as independent contractors.
The above list is just a summary of some of the many new laws that came into effect as of January 1, 2016. For specific information regarding any of these new laws or if you have any questions or concerns about your job, please do not hesitate to contact an attorney at Haeggquist & Eck, LLP.