New 2015 Employment Laws
Phillip Griego & AssociatesEMPLOYMENT ADVISORY: NEW LAWS FOR 2015
Once again the California legislature and courts have been extremely busy
trying to provide additional protections for employees. This year, we've
also seen a number of citywide ordinances that will impact the wages and
benefits companies provide their employees. Employers need to be aware
of the changes, so they can modify their policies to comply with state,
federal and local laws.
The following is a quick summary of the most significant changes in the
law impacting California businesses.
Paid Sick Leave for All California Employees - Effective July 15, 2015, AB 1522 requires employers doing business in
California to provide paid sick days to almost all employees. Employees
will accrue 1 hours of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, regardless
of whether the employee is full-time or part-time. Unlike many city ordinances,
California's paid sick leave begins accruing as soon as the employee
starts to work (or July 15, 2015, whichever is later), although an employer
can prohibit an employee from using accrued paid sick leave in the first
90 days of employment. Employers may also "limit an employee's
use of paid sick days to 24 hours or three days in each year of employment."
Unused paid sick days carry over to the following year, but employers
can place a 6-day cap on the paid sick day accrual. Be aware that some
cities have ordinances that allow a higher cap, and employers have to
comply with whichever laws are most favorable to employees. Employers
must also provide written notice of the accrued and used sick leave, either
on the pay stub or in a separate document, with every paycheck.
City Paid Sick Leave Ordinances -San Francisco, Oakland and San Diego passed city-wide ordinances requiring
paid sick leave for certain employees. The city ordinances are similar
to California's new paid sick leave law, but sometimes provide additional
benefits for employees working within city limits. If you have employees
working in any city that has adopted a paid sick leave ordinance, you
should review your current paid sick leave policies to ensure compliance.
We expect other cities to follow suit.
Federal Regulations Regarding Companions Goes Into Effect - Although the Department of Labor has said it will not enforce the new
regulations until mid-year, companions will be entitled to overtime when
they work more than 40 hours in a week unless otherwise exempt from the
Fair Labor Standards Act. While some personal attendants may still be
exempt if the household owner employs the companion directly and the duties
are limited to providing companionship and protection, caregivers employed
by third-party employers and caregivers that provide care in addition
to companionship and protection are now covered by the FLSA. Although
personal attendants in California have been entitled to overtime after
9 hours in a day or 45 hours in a week, Californians using caregivers
may need to pay weekly overtime after 40 hours in a week beginning January 1st.
Unpaid Interns Are Protected from Unlawful Harassment - The Fair Employment and Housing Act was amended to extend protection
to unpaid interns. This is a good time to remind employers that the Labor
Commissioner and the Department of Labor only allow unpaid interns in
a few situations, typically when the intern is receiving school credit
and the employer receives very little benefit from the work. If you use
interns, now is a good time to examine whether the interns are actually
entitled to wages.
Anti-Bullying Module for Sexual Harassment Prevention Training - All employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide 2 hours
of sexual harassment prevention training to all supervisory employees
every 2 years. Although "bullying" is not strictly prohibited
by law, AB 2053 now requires the sexual harassment prevention training
to include a module on anti-bullying. When booking your sexual harassment
prevention training, ask your provider whether they include an anti-bullying
module. We recommend sexual harassment prevention training for most employers,
even if you have less than 50 employees, to ensure employees know how
to seek assistance.
No Discrimination Against Workers with Special Drivers Licenses - The DMV must issue an original driver's license even if the person
cannot submit satisfactory proof that the applicant's presence in
the United States is authorized under federal law if he or she meets all
other qualifications for licensure and provides satisfactory proof to
the department of his or her identity and California residency. AB 1660
prohibits discrimination against an individual because he or she holds
or presents a driver's license issued under these provisions or to
require a person to present a driver's license, except in specific
situations. Additionally, FEHA's definition of "national origin"
now includes discrimination on the basis of possessing a driver's
license granted under Section 12801.9 of the Vehicle Code. The new laws
do not alter an employer's rights or obligations under Section 1324a
of Title 8 of the United States Code regarding obtaining documentation
evidencing identity and authorization for employment. Any action taken
by an employer that is required by the federal Immigration and Nationality
Act (8 U.S.C. Sec. 1324a) is not a violation of law. Driver's license
information obtained by an employer must be treated as private and confidential,
is exempt from disclosure under the California Public Records Act, and
can not be disclosed to any unauthorized person or used for any purpose
other than to establish identity and authorization to drive.
Employers Using Third-Party Employers Are Liable for Wages and Workers'
Compensation Insurance - Labor Code section 2810.3 requires a "client employer" to
share with a "labor contractor" all civil legal responsibility
and civil liability for all workers supplied by that labor contractor
for the payment of wages and the failure to obtain valid workers'
compensation coverage. In other words, if your company receives workers
through a contracting agency, and that agency fails to pay the worker
or fails to maintain valid workers' compensation coverage, your company
could be responsible for any unpaid wages or workers' compensation
claims. Employers can still include indemnification language in their
contracts, but they cannot avoid liability by hiring the worker through
a third-party employer.
Longer Statute of Limitations for Liquidated Damages and Failure to Timely
Pay Final Wages - Existing law provides for criminal and civil penalties for certain wage
violations and authorizes the Labor Commissioner to recover liquidated
damages for minimum wage violations. AB 1723 expands Labor Code section
1197.1 to allow the Labor Commissioner to issue citations and seek penalties
for the willful failure to timely pay wages of a resigned or discharged employee.
Several Cases Cause Employers to Reconsider Mandatory Arbitration Provisions - For years employers had difficulty requiring employees to agree to resolve
all dispute through arbitration. Recent U.S. Supreme Court and California
court decisions make it easier for employers to require binding arbitration
for some employment law claims. Employers should evaluate whether binding
arbitration is the right decision for their business. There are many pros
and cons to resolving cases through binding arbitration, and employers
must still be careful when drafting arbitration agreements. Just because
you find an arbitration agreement on line does not mean it will be enforceable.
Minimum Wage Increase By Various Cities - Dissatisfied with California's minimum wage (currently $9.00 per
hour), several cities passed their own ordinances requiring a higher minimum
wage for employees working within certain geographical limits. The following
cities will have the following minimum wage requirements this year:
We expect to see more cities adopt similar legislation, and California
legislators are trying to pass a higher California minimum wage by the
end of the year (currently slated to increase to $10.00 per hour on January 1, 2016).
Employers need to update their employment handbooks and their policies
to comply with the new laws. There is no better time to review your policies
and practices with a knowledgeable employment attorney. The New Year affords
employers the opportunity to start the year in compliance, and avoid potentially
If you have any questions about the new laws, or any employment-related
matter, contact our office and speak with one of our attorneys. Let us
help you figure out how to employ your workers correctly, so you can focus
on growing your business.