Authored Articles & Publications Feb 21, 2018

Best in Law: Understanding California's New Employment Laws

Partner Joseph Ortiz Provides Update in the Press-Enterprise

Best in Law: Understanding California's New Employment Laws

By Joseph T. Ortiz

California lawmakers had a busy 2017 addressing various employment issues. A majority of these new laws took effect Jan. 1. If you are an employer and are not yet in compliance, immediate action should be taken to review your employment applications and update employee policies to reflect these new regulations.

Minimum Wage and Salary Threshold
California increased its minimum wage to $11 for employers with 26 or more employees and $10.50 for businesses with 25 or fewer workers.

Absent a major economic event, larger employers will see the minimum wage raised by $1 a year through 2022 when the state’s $15 standard will be reached – 2023 for smaller employers.

The salary threshold for overtime pay for exempt executive, administrative and professional workers also rose this year.

California law says exempt employees must earn a fixed monthly income of at least double the minimum wage for full-time employment. With the recent wage increases, the current salary threshold for employers with 26 or more employees is about $3,800 a month, or $45,760 a year.

These increases for white-collar workers were set to meet new federal overtime rule standards that are delayed indefinitely until the U.S. Department of Labor modifies its overtime rules.

Applicant Histories
Employee protections were also expanded by restricting the information employers can request from applicants.

Now, employers with five or more workers may not question an applicant about his or her criminal past until a conditional job offer is made. Any denial of employment based upon a conviction must have a “direct and adverse relationship with the duties of the job.”

In an effort to curb discriminatory pay practices that could follow a worker into a new job, Assembly Bill 168 now prohibits employers from inquiring about an applicant’s past salary and benefits. Employers will also be required to provide applicants with a pay scale for the applied-for job upon request.

Parental Leave
Employers with 20 or more employees must provide workers with 12 weeks of job-protected leave after the birth, adoption or foster-placement of a child.

Under Senate Bill 63, baby-bonding leave must be granted to employees who have worked at the company for 12 months and at least 1,250 hours in the last year.

Harassment Training
Senate Bill 396 requires state-mandated harassment training for supervisors include a component on gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.

Additionally, all employers are required to display the Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s poster on transgender rights in a location accessible to all its employees.

Marijuana Rules
While California legalized marijuana, employers may still have policies to prohibit marijuana use.

Proposition 64 specifies that employers may prohibit marijuana in the workplace and not be required to accommodate an employee’s marijuana usage. The Department of Justice’s hard-line position against marijuana means employers can rely on federal law, as well, when enforcing their drug policies.

Immigration Enforcement
Assembly Bill 450 restricts employers from voluntarily providing federal immigration enforcement agents with access to non-public work areas or with employee records. Enforcement agents will need a judicial warrant or subpoena first.

This law does not apply to Form I-9 inspections.

Also, beginning July 1, employers must notify any affected employee and the Labor Commissioner of federal immigration inspections of Form I-9 and other employment records within 72 hours of receiving the notice of inspection.

* This article first appeared in The Press-Enterprise on Feb. 10, 2018 Republished with permission.

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