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This week’s stories include ...
(1) New California Laws in 2016
Starting this year, California employers will have 33 days to correct wage statement violations before employees can sue under the state’s Private Attorneys General Act.
In addition, AB 304 amends California’s Paid Sick Leave Law to authorize employers to use their own methods of calculating accrued sick leave, as long as the leave accrues regularly and 24 hours of leave accumulates by the 120th day of employment.
Also, foster parents, stepparents, and anyone acting in loco parentis are now included as parents who can take unpaid time off from work to address needs related to a child’s school or child care provider.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a new amendment to California’s “Fair Pay Act” toughens the state’s existing equal pay law. The old law prohibited gender-based pay differentials for employees doing equal work in the same establishment. The law now requires equal pay for male and female employees who do “similar work” under “similar working conditions.” This means that the law may no longer take into account varying cost of living in different areas of the state. William O. Stein from Epstein Becker Green goes into more detail. Read more about the Fair Pay Act.
(2) Minimum Wage Rises in Many States Nationwide
Nationwide, the activism around minimum wages has had a big impact on new legislation coming into effect this year. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia will raise their minimum wages in 2016. California and Massachusetts will have the highest state minimum wages at $10/hour. Some city governments have gone even higher. San Francisco employers and large Seattle employers that do not provide medical benefits will have to pay a minimum of $13/hour. Read more about the 2016 minimum wage increases.
(3) New York Implements the "Women's Equality Act"
In New York this month, the state will implement the “Women’s Equality Act,” which, among other provisions, requires that employers provide accommodations to all pregnant employees, not just those with pregnancy-related disabilities. And in late December, New York City issued an interpretation of the city’s Human Rights Law explaining that employers must use an individual’s preferred pronouns and titles, provide single-sex facilities consistent with an employee’s gender identity, and cannot have any dress code requirements that differ based on gender. Read more about the Women's Equality Act.
(4) EEOC Releases Guidelines on Muslim Discrimination
On the federal level, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released new guidance documents over the holidays on workplace discrimination against Muslims or Middle Eastern individuals. The agency released separate documents for employees and employers addressing harassment, intimidation, and discrimination. Among other things, the guidance explains that comments about “terrorism” or “ISIS” can be ethnic or religious slurs that can create a hostile work environment.