Employment Law Summary for 2015

The California legislative session is over and the Governor has (once again) signed a number of employment-related bills. The following is a brief summary of some of the changes made that will affect employers.

The most important legislation that will impact all employers is the Paid Sick Leave Law which requires ALL employers to provide paid sick leave to ALL employees who have worked in California for at least 30 days. See Alerts April 14, 2015 and July 23, 2015. This law was amended in July to allow employers to measure a year by employment date, calendar year, or any 12-month period; allows for other accrual methods as long as the employee receives at least 24 hours (or three days) of sick leave by the 120th day of employment; allows for “grandfathering” of existing paid time off that meets certain criteria; and other administrative changes. The Department of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) has also issued an opinion letter which states that the employee must be allowed to use at a minimum three days or 24 hours of paid sick leave and, therefore, if an employee works a 10-hour day the employee must be able to use 30 hours of paid sick leave.

Employers with 25 or more employees must allow employees time off to find, enroll or re-enroll their children in a school or with a licensed child care provider and must be allowed time off to address a “child care provider or school emergency.” The Kin Care Law which requires employers who provide sick leave to allow an employee to use up to one-half of the time to care for family members has been expanded to allow the employee to use one-half of the time for any purpose of family member as set forth in the Paid Sick Leave law.

California’s Equal Pay Act has been amended to prohibit an employer from paying less than what is paid to the opposite sex for “substantially similar work. The amendments also authorize an employee to disclose the employee’s own wages, discuss the wages of others, inquire about another employee’s wages, or aid or encourage other employees to exercise their rights under this legislation.

The Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) has been amended to allow for a “cure period” for certain itemized wage statement violations.

An employer cannot retaliate against an employee who requests accommodation of religious beliefs, whether or not the accommodation is granted.

Piece rate workers must be paid for rest/recovery periods and other nonproductive time in addition to their piece rate earnings. This time must be paid at the average hourly rate for the workweek (and at least minimum wage). The wages and rate paid must be included on the employee’s itemized statement. Employers are being given a period during which they can pay for uncompensated or undercompensated time for the previous three years and avoid certain penalties.

Additionally, based on previously enacted legislation, the minimum wage will be increased to $10 per hour effective 1/1/16.

Finally, the Governor did veto legislation that would have precluded mandatory pre-dispute employment arbitration agreements; prohibited an employer from discriminating against job applicants based on the applicant’s status as unemployed; prohibited an employer from seeking salary information from an applicant for employment; and expanded employer coverage and family member status under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).

– Jeanne Flaherty, Esq.