With the new year underway, California employers are no doubt busy reviewing their policies to keep up with the state's new labor and employment laws. As many laws have expanded the scope of risk, we recommend that all California employers consult with experienced employment counsel to ensure compliance. Below are several important new laws employers should be aware of in 2016.
California Fair Pay Act (CFPA)
The CFPA targets gender-based wage differentials by relaxing the standards necessary to show a violation and shifting the burden of proof to employers to "affirmatively demonstrate" that a disparity is based entirely on a valid factor (e.g., seniority system, merit system, production-based earning system, bona fide factor other than sex). The law allows employees to disclose, discuss and inquire about wages and also provides a private right of action for retaliation or discharge in violation of the CFPA.
Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) and the Opportunity to Cure
AB 1506 allows employers a limited right to cure wage statement violations that involve failure to provide itemized wage statements containing (1) pay period dates and (2) the name and address of the legal entity, before individuals can bring civil suits for such alleged violations.
Leave Law Expansion
SB 579 expands child-related employee leave, allowing time off to find a school or child care provider and time off to address child care or school emergencies. AB 583 expands the list of employees eligible for California’s military leave protections.
Discrimination, Retaliation and Whistleblower Protections
AB 1509 extends whistleblower protections to an employee who is a family member of a person engaged in protected conduct. AB 987 prohibits discrimination or retaliation against employees who request an accommodation for a disability or religion, regardless of whether the request is granted. Under AB 560, the immigration status of a minor is irrelevant to liability, remedies and recovery under applicable labor laws, except for employment-related injunctive relief that would violate federal law.
Expanded Labor Commissioner Enforcement Powers
SB 588 allows the Labor Commissioner to place liens on employer property to remedy nonpayment of wages and to issue stop orders preventing employers from continuing business. It also allows for personal liability for individuals who violate the Labor Code on behalf of employers. AB 970 allows the Labor Commissioner to investigate and enforce wage laws and to issue citations for failure to reimburse employees for expenses.
Use and Misuse of E-Verify Authorizations
AB 622 prohibits misuse of E-Verify (the federal electronic workers' authorization system). The law imposes penalties of $10,000 per violation and requires compliance with notification protocols upon receipt of notice that E-Verify information does not match federal records.