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Key Changes to California Employment Law in 2015

by Gayle M. Athanacio, Sharon Ongerth Rossi and Virginia K. Young
RJO Update: Labor and Employment

Key Changes to California Employment Law in 2015

By Gayle M. Athanacio, Virginia K. Young and Sharon Ongerth Rossi

A new year always means changes to California employment law and 2015 is no exception. Employers with employees performing services in California should familiarize themselves with these developments as many of these new laws will affect day-to-day operations, necessitate immediate action, and/or require the updating of employment policies, handbooks and practices. What follows is a summary of the most significant changes to California employment laws for 2015. Unless otherwise specified, the new laws are in effect January 1, 2015.

Subject Matter
Summary Description
Time Off
California Paid Sick Leave AB 1522 enacts Cal. Labor Code section 245 et seq. Beginning July 1, 2015, employers statewide must provide paid sick leave at a rate of 1 hour paid leave per 30 hours worked to employees who work at least 30 days in a year in California; employers may limit the use of paid leave to 24 hours per year and set accrual caps at 48 hours per year. Employees must be able to use paid sick leave for the diagnosis, care or treatment of an existing condition, or for preventive care for themselves or “family members” (broadly defined under the law). In addition, employees, who are victims of domestic violence, are entitled to use sick leave to address medical, legal and other related issues. Employers should pay close attention to this new law which includes numerous other detailed provisions, including various notice requirements (which take effect beginning January 1, 2015) and record keeping requirements (beginning July 1, 2015).

The City of Oakland has also enacted a paid sick leave ordinance, summarized below, which takes effect March 1, 2015.

Time Off For Emergency Rescue Personnel AB 2536 amends Cal. Labor Code section 230.3. Applies to employers of 50 or more employees; expands the definition of “emergency rescue personnel” entitled to unpaid time off to include officers, employees or members of disaster medical response entities sponsored or requested by the state.
FEHA Protections For Interns and Unpaid Volunteers AB 1443 amends Cal. Govt. Code section 12940 Extends FEHA’s protections against discrimination to unpaid internships or other unpaid limited duration work experience programs; FEHA’s protections against harassment will also extend to interns and volunteers.
National Origin Discrimination AB 1660 amends Government Code section 12926 and Vehicle Code section 12809.5 Definitional section amended: “national origin discrimination” includes discrimination on the basis of the applicant or employee having received a driver’s license under the Safe and Responsible Driver’s Act; limits employer’s ability to request proof of driver’s license only where license is bona fide job requirement.
Immigration Related Protections AB 2751 amends Labor Code sections 1019 and 1024.6 Clarifies that “unfair immigration practices” include filing or threatening to file a false report of complaint with any state or federal agency; limits existing law prohibiting employers from discriminating against an employee who updates his or her “personal information” to lawful changes of name, social security number, or federal employment authorization documents.
Recipients of Public Assistance AB 1792 enacts Government Code Section 13084 State agencies must prepare and publish a list of the 500 employers with over 100 California employees who have the most employees receiving public assistance (defined as Medi-Cal); prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who receive public assistance (as defined). This law is scheduled to sunset in 2020.
Supervisor Harassment Training AB 2053 amends Cal. Govt Code Section 12590.1 Mandatory harassment training for supervisors (employers of 50 of more employees) must now include training on the prevention of “abusive conduct” (as defined).
Wage and Hour
“Waiting Time Penalties” for Minimum Wage Violations AB 1723 amends Labor Code Section 1197.1 Clarifies that the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (“DLSE”) can award “waiting time penalties” of up to 30 days’ pay to former employees who bring claims for minimum wage violations.
Joint Wage and Hour Liability for Staffing Companies and Clients AB 1897 enacts Labor Code section 2810.3 Companies that use staffing agencies to supply workers will share civil and legal liability for wage and hour violations and failure to secure workers’ compensation coverage.
Heat Recovery Periods for Employees Working Outdoors SB 1360 amends Labor Code section 226.7 Clarifies that time spent taking heat recovery periods cannot be deducted from employees’ paid hours worked.
Remedies for Employees Who Complain about Labor Code or Local Ordinance Violations AB 2751 amends Labor Code section 98.6 Employees who suffer retaliation for complaining about Labor Code or local ordinance violations can bring complaints to the DLSE, where remedies such as lost wages and reinstatement may be awarded. This law clarifies that the potential $10,000 civil fine that the DLSE may also award is payable to the employee suffering the retaliation.
Recovery of Liquidated Damages for Minimum Wage Violations AB 2074 amends Labor Code Section 1194.2 Clarifies that the time frame for employees to recover for minimum wage violations (three years) also applies to recovery of liquidated damages in the same amount.
Prevailing Wage Laws
Definition of Construction/Expansion of Prevailing Wage Coverage AB 26 amends Labor Code section 1720 Clarifies that post construction activities, including clean-up at the job site, are subject to prevailing wage requirements.
Background Checks for On-Site Construction Contracts AB 1650 enacts Public Contract Code section 10186 Any person submitting a bid for a state contract involving on-site construction related services must certify that applicants for employment will not be asked to disclose criminal history information at the time of the initial employment application.
Recovery of Costs Incurred Before Project Designated a Public Work AB 1939 enacts Cal. Labor Code Section 1784 Contractors who were not notified that a project was a public work, and incur increased costs due to the project’s reclassification as a public work, can now seek recovery from the “hiring party” as well as the awarding body.
Expansion of Remedies for Apprenticeship Violations AB 2744 amends Labor Code sections 1771.1, repeals and replaces 1777.7 Mandatory debarment remedy for two or more willful violations of prevailing wage laws is expanded to include apprenticeship violations; revises procedures for Labor Commissioner to enforce penalty assessments for apprenticeship violations.
City Ordinances
San Francisco “Retail Workers’ Bill of Rights”

Hours and Retention Protection

Fair Scheduling and Treatment Ordinances

SF Police Code Article 33F Applies to certain “formula retail” employers (broadly defined) with 20 or more employees working in San Francisco and to their “property services contracts”

“Hours and Retention Protection for Formula Retail Employees” ordinance requires employers to offer additional work to part-time employees before using contract, staffing agency or temporary employees, and retention of employees for 90 days following “change in control.”

“Fair Scheduling and Treatment of Formula Retail Employees requires covered employers to provide employees with an initial estimate of work hours and schedule at their time of hire; notice of schedule two weeks in advance and payments ranging from 1 to 3 hours pay for canceled or changed shifts or for “on-call” shifts where the employee is not called into work; also requires that part-time employees receive the same hourly wage and paid time-off benefits (on a pro rata basis) as hourly employees.

Oakland Paid Sick Leave Ordinance Measure FF enacts Oakland Municipal Code section 5.92.030 Effective March 1, 2015, Oakland employers must provide paid sick leave to employees working in Oakland at a rate of 1 hour per 30 hours worked; employers in Oakland must ensure that their policies comply with both Oakland and state sick leave laws.
Oakland Hospitality Service Charge Ordinance Measure FF enacts Oakland Municipal Code section 5.92.040 This law, which has been in effect since November 2014, applies to hospitality industry employers; all service charges must be paid directly to the “hospitality worker” delivering the service. Under the ordinance the term “hospitality worker” excludes supervisors, unless the supervisor is providing actual services to customer.
Increase Minimum Wage San Francisco – $12.25 per hour, beginning March 1, 2015.Oakland: $12.25 per hour, beginning March 2, 2015.

Los Angeles: $15.37 per hour beginning July 1, 2015, only applies to certain hotel employers within the Los Angeles city limits.

Berkeley: $10.00 per hour, already in effect as of October 1, 2014.

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If you employ workers in California and have questions on how these new laws will affect you, please contact the Rogers Joseph O’Donnell attorney with whom you regularly work, or the authors of this legal update.

RJO’s Labor & Employment Law Practice Group is comprised of experienced labor and employment attorneys who regularly represent and advise employers, big and small, in wide variety of industries.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter, and is not a substitute for legal advice in specific circumstances.

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