New Employment Regulations in California for 2014

To no surprise, in 2014 numerous new regulations will be enacted in California. Here are a brief summary of a few of the new regulations which will impact employer-employee relations:

Assembly Bill 10 will increase California’s current minimum wage (of $8 per hour) in two $1 increments: to $9 per hour on July 1, 2014, and from $9 per hour to $10 per hour on January 1, 2016. This increase will also increase the minimum salary amount employees must earn to qualify as “exempt” employees under California state law executive, administrative, or professional exemptions. One of the requirements for employees to be exempt from overtime and other requirements for hourly-wage employees is that their monthly salary must be at least twice the state minimum wage for full-time employment. Under current law, the earnings threshold for exempt employees is $2,773.34 per month. Under AB 10, the minimum monthly salary for exempt employees will increase to $3,120 on July 1, 2014, and $3,466.67 on January 1, 2016.

Assembly Bill 218 will prohibit a state or local agency, as of July 1, 2014, from asking an applicant to disclose information regarding a criminal conviction, except as specified, until the agency has determined the applicant meets the minimum employment qualifications for the position. Existing law prohibits both public and private employers from asking an applicant for employment to disclose (either in writing or verbally) any information concerning an arrest or detention that did not result in a conviction.

Assembly Bill 556 adds “military and veteran status” to the list of categories protected from employment discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), and also provides an exemption for an inquiry by an employer regarding military or veteran status for the purpose of awarding a veteran’s preference as permitted by law. The list of protected categories under existing FEHA are: race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, and sexual orientation.

Senate Bill 288: Existing law prohibits an employer from discharging or in any manner discriminating against an employee for taking time off to serve on a jury, an employee who is a victim of a crime for taking time off to appear in court as a witness in any judicial proceeding, or an employee who is a victim of domestic violence or a victim of sexual assault for taking time off from work to obtain or attempt to obtain prescribed relief. Senate Bill 288 will additionally prohibit an employer from discharging, discriminating or retaliating against an employee who is a victim of specified offenses, for taking time off from work, upon the victim’s request, to appear in court to be heard at any proceeding, including postarrest release decision, plea, sentencing, postconviction release decision, or any proceeding in which a right of the victim is at issue. Existing law also entitles an employee who is discriminated or retaliated against for any of the above actions to reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages and work benefits, and to file a complaint with specified government departments.

Senate Bill 288 also would extend these protections to an employee who is protected under Senate Bill 288.

Senate Bill 292:Existing law prohibits employment discrimination or harassment on account of numerous characteristics, including but not limited to race, religious creed, color, national origin, and sex. Senate Bill 292 specifies that, for purposes of the definition of “harassment because of sex” under these provisions, that sexually harassing conduct need not be motivated by sexual desire.

Senate Bill 390: Existing law makes it a crime for an employer to fail to make agreed-upon payments to health and welfare funds, pension funds, or various benefit plans. Such crime is punishable as a felony if the amount unpaid exceeds $500, and as a misdemeanor if the amount is less than $500. Senate Bill 390 extends the definition of a crime to include an employer’s failure to remit withholdings from an employee’s wages that were made pursuant to state, local, or federal law.

Senate Bill 400: Existing law prohibits an employer from taking adverse employment action against a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault who takes time off from work to attend to issues arising as a result of the domestic violence or sexual assault, as long as the employee complies with certain conditions. It also provides protections to employees who are discharged, or discriminated or retaliated against. Senate Bill 400 extends the protections to victims of stalking.

Senate Bill 462: In any action brought for the nonpayment of wages, fringe benefits, or health and welfare or pension fund contributions, existing law generally requires a court to award reasonable attorney’s fees and costs to the prevailing party if any party to the action so requests. Senate Bill 462 changes this by providing that where the employer is the prevailing party, the court can award attorney’s fees and costs only if it finds that the employee brought the court action in bad faith.

Senate Bill 666 suspends or revokes an employer’s business license for retaliation against employees and others on the basis of citizenship and immigration status, and establishes a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per violation.

Senate Bill 770: Under existing law, the family temporary disability insurance program (aka Paid Family Leave or PFL) provides up to six weeks of wage replacement benefits to employees who take time off work to care for a seriously ill child, spouse or domestic partner, or parent, or to bond with a minor child within one year of the birth or placement of the child in connection with foster care or adoption. These benefits have been in effect since July 2004, payable for family temporary disability leaves that began on and after July 1, 2004. Senate Bill 770 expands the scope of the family temporary disability program to include time off to care for a seriously ill sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or parent-in-law, as defined. It also makes conforming and clarifying changes in provisions relating to family temporary disability compensation.

As can be seen, the new regulations favor employees and can inflict serious ramifications upon employers. For more information on the new 2014 regulations or to determine if your business complies with all California employment laws, please contact Robert Forouzandeh of Reicker, Pfau, Pyle & McRoy, LLP.

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