The 2014 legislative session is in the books, and it produced several new laws affecting employers in California, including:
- Private arbitration companies must provide arbitration data on their websites, in a searchable, cumulative report. Beginning January 1, 2015, large private arbitration companies (such as AAA and JAMS) must, on at least a quarterly basis, publish detailed information concerning most employment arbitrations conspicuously on their website in a searchable cumulative report. Among other disclosures, private arbitration companies must, for arbitrations within the past five years, reveal the names of the parties, who initiated the arbitration, the date of disposition, how the dispute was resolved, the amount of the award and attorneys’ fees granted, whether any other relief was granted, the amount of the arbitrator’s fees and how the fees were split among the parties. This new law significantly dilutes one of the advantages of arbitration over court proceedings: confidentiality.
- Mandatory sexual harassment training must include training on “bullying.” California requires that employers with 50 or more employees provide all supervisory employees with at least two hours of sexual harassment training and education every two years. Effective January 1, 2015, such training must now include prevention of abusive conduct (i.e., “bullying”) as a component of the training. Notably, California requires supervisor training on bullying despite having no law that specifically prohibits bullying in the workplace of private employers.
- Unpaid interns are protected from discrimination and harassment. California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act has been amended to include unpaid interns within its scope. This expands prior law, which contained protections only for employees (properly classified unpaid interns are not employees) and contractors.
- Waiver of rights and remedies under hate crime laws not enforceable in contracts for goods and services. Beginning January 1, 2015, California will prohibit waivers of rights afforded under certain hate crime laws (the Ralph Civil Rights Act and the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act), including the right to pursue a civil action and statutory remedies, in contracts for the provisions of goods and services. The scope of the new law is not entirely clear and may be subject to legal challenge on federal preemption grounds, including under the Federal Arbitration Act. However, on its face the law appears to apply to arbitration clauses in independent contractor agreements.
- Companies are jointly liable for wage and safety violations of labor contractors. Effective from January 1, 2015, certain employers will share with its labor contractor(s) all civil liability for nonpayment of wages and failure to secure workers’ compensation coverage, and cannot shift workplace safety duties and responsibilities to the contractor. The law specifically allows employers to obtain indemnification from the contractor for liability created by acts of the contractor. Employee leasing arrangements that contractually obligate the employer to assume all responsibility and liability under the law are excluded from the definition of labor contractor. This law does not apply to employers who have 25 or fewer workers, or who use 5 or fewer workers from a labor contractor at any given time.