Why it matters

Legislators in California have been busy. Local municipalities have enacted bills increasing the minimum wage (up to $15 per hour by 2020 in Los Angeles, adding the city to the list of those at the top of the hourly rate) and providing paid sick leave (with Emeryville offering features over and above those found in the new state law). In the state legislature, lawmakers are considering a host of employment-related measures on topics ranging from broadening the protections offered by the California Family Rights Act to a requirement that employers pay women the same wages as their male counterparts to yet another hike in the state’s minimum wage.

Detailed discussion

Employment-related legislation has been an area of focus for both local and state lawmakers in California recently. Below are some of the new ordinances that have passed and major changes being considered.

  • In Los Angeles, the City Council approved an increase that will jump the city’s minimum wage from its current $9 per hour to $15 by 2020. Final approval of the ordinance—passed in a 12-to-1 vote—makes L.A. the largest city yet to reach the $15 mark, where it joins San Francisco, Chicago, and Seattle. The phase-in of the raise ($10.50 by July 1, 2016, moving up each year to $12, $13.25, $14.25, and ultimately $15) provides additional time to businesses with fewer than 25 employees, giving them an extra year for each increase. After 2020, the hourly rate will be adjusted upwards on an automatic basis, tied to the consumer price index. “The minimum wage will no longer be a poverty wage in Los Angeles,” the city’s mayor, Eric Garcetti, said in a statement about the ordinance.
  • Although California employees recently became entitled to sick leave, the Emeryville City Council (which also recently upped its minimum wage to $16 by 2020) passed a new ordinance providing protections over and above the state law, including time off to care for a seeing-eye or service dog. The measure covers employees of both for-profit and non-profit employers, as well as part-time and temporary workers. Employees may use their sick leave—which accumulates at up to 48 hours per year for employers with 55 or fewer employees and up to 72 hours each year for employers with more than 55 workers—to care for themselves as well as family members, defined broadly to include one designated non-family member.
  • In the state legislature, a bill that would bar employers from asking applicants about salary history—as well as prohibit the release of salary history for former and current employees—recently passed the Assembly. Specifically, the bill would prohibit an employer from “Orally or in writing, personally or through an agent, seek[ing] salary history information, including, but not limited to, compensation and benefits, from an applicant for employment for an interview or as a condition of employment,” as well as banning the “Release [of] the salary history of any current or former employee to any prospective employer in response to a request as part of an interview or hiring process without written authorization from the current or former employee.” A.B. 1017 would make violations of the law misdemeanor crimes. After the Assembly approved the measure in a 42-to-29 vote, it moved to the Senate for consideration.
  • A bill that would broaden the protections and rights for employees under the California Family Rights Act recently passed the Senate and moved to the Assembly. S.B. 406 would add additional family members to the list of individuals that employees can take paid leave to care for (including grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, parents-in-law, and children of any age) as well as lower the number of employees triggering an exemption from coverage from 50 to just 25. The California Chamber of Commerce labeled the proposal a “job killer,” arguing that it would increase costs and the risk of litigation for employers.
  • The Senate also approved the California Fair Pay Act in a unanimous vote. The Assembly will now consider S.B. 358, which would prohibit retaliation against employees who ask about their wages or discuss wages with fellow employees and mandate that employers pay women the same wages as male colleagues for substantially similar work. The bill—inspired by Patricia Arquette’s Oscar speech, in which she stated, “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all”—notes that full-time female workers in California make 84 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts, with even larger disparities for minority women (58 cents for African-American women and 44 cents for Latin American women).
  • Finally, state lawmakers also joined the push for increasing the minimum wage (despite having just enacted legislation to raise the rate to $10 per hour by 2016), with the Senate passing a bill pushing the wage to $13 per hour. S.B. 3—which would step up the rate to $11 per hour in 2016 and $13 in 2017, with upward adjustments automatically applied beginning in 2019—passed the Senate in a 23-to-15 vote and moves to the Assembly for consideration.

To read the Emeryville sick leave ordinance, click here.

To read Assembly Bill 1017, click here.

To read Senate Bill 406, click here.

To read Senate Bill 358, click here.

To read Senate Bill 3, click here.