It’s a New Year and, not surprisingly, there are new laws which impact California employers. Some of the new employment laws for 2014 which may affect your business are highlighted below.
Increase in California’s Minimum Wage
California’s minimum wage will increase from $8 per hour to $9 per hour on July 1, 2014. It will increase again on January 1, 2016 to $10 per hour.
Since the minimum monthly salary requirement for most exempt employees is two times the minimum wage for full-time employment, any increase to California’s minimum wage triggers an increase to the minimum monthly salary requirement. This means that the minimum monthly salary requirement for most exempt employees will increase on July 1, 2014 from $2,773.33 to $3,120 and again on January 1, 2016 to $3,466.66.
You should review the monthly salary of your exempt employees to confirm that the minimum monthly salary requirement will be met when the minimum wage increases.
Additional Protection for Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking
Prior to January 1, 2014, all California employers, regardless of size, were prohibited from discharging, discriminating or retaliating against an employee who was the victim of domestic violence or sexual assault and who took time off to obtain relief to help ensure the health, safety or welfare of the employee or the employee’s child (e.g., to obtain a temporary restraining order, a restraining order or other court-ordered relief).
Also prior to January 1, 2014, California employers with at least 25 employees were required to allow an employee who was the victim of domestic violence or sexual assault to take time off to seek medical attention or psychological counseling, as well as to participate in safety planning programs.
As a condition to taking such time off, employees are required to provide reasonable advance notice when feasible.
Beginning January 1, 2014, these same protections now extend to victims of stalking.
Also beginning January 1, 2014, California employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to an employee who is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking if the employee requests an accommodation for his or her safety while at work. Reasonable accommodations may include implementing safety measures such as a transfer, reassignment, modified schedule, change in work telephone or station or installing locks.
California employers are also required to engage in a timely, good faith and interactive process with the employee to find an effective, reasonable accommodation. You should document your efforts engaging in the interactive process, similar to how you document your efforts in the disability context.
Also similar to providing a reasonable accommodation in the disability context, California employers are not required to provide an accommodation that causes an undue hardship. In addition, they are not required to provide an accommodation that would violate their duty to provide a safe and healthful workplace for all employees.
You may ask the employee to provide certification of his or her status as a victim. You may also ask the employee to provide a written statement signed by either the employee or an individual acting on the employee’s behalf certifying that an accommodation is related to the employee’s status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. Keep in mind that any documents or statements provided about an employee’s status as a victim must be treated as confidential and only disclosed as required by applicable law and after providing notice to the employee.
Additional Protections for Exercising Rights under the California Labor Code
Prior to January 1, 2014, California law prohibited employers from discharging or discriminating against employees or applicants who asserted their rights under the California Labor Code, e.g.,who complained about unpaid wages or about being unlawfully discriminated against or harassed.
Beginning January 1, 2014, employers are now prohibited from retaliating or taking adverse action against employees or applicants who assert their rights under the California Labor Code. In addition, protected conduct is expanded to include a written or oral complaint by an employee that he or she is owed unpaid wages.
Also beginning January 1, 2014, employers that are corporations or limited liability companies may be subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per employee, per violation.
Beginning January 1, 2014, employers are also prohibited from engaging in an “unfair immigration-related practice” when an employee exercises a protected right under the California Labor Code or any other applicable local ordinance.
An “unfair immigration-related practice” includes any of the following taken in retaliation against an employee for exercising a protected right:
- Requesting more or different work eligibility documents than those required under federal law;
- Refusing to honor work eligibility documents that on their face reasonably appear to be genuine;
- Using the federal E-verify system to check an employee’s or applicant’s employment authorization status at a time other than required under federal law;
- Threatening to file or the filing of a false police report; or
- Threatening to contact or contacting immigration authorities.
If an employer takes any “unfair immigration-related practice” within 90 days of a person’s exercise of any rights protected under the Labor Code or any applicable local ordinance, there is a rebuttable presumption it was done in retaliation. In addition, if an employer engages in an unfair immigration-related practice, it may be subject to various penalties, including a private right of action.
Premium Pay for Missed Recovery Periods
California employers with employees who work outdoors (e.g., construction workers, agriculture workers, landscape workers) are required to provide their workers with a cool down or recovery period of at least 5 minutes on an “as needed” basis to protect them from overheating.
Beginning January 1, 2014, employers who do not provide a recovery period to employees who work outdoors must pay one hour of premium pay for each workday that the recovery period is not provided.
Expansion of Qualifying Events for Paid Family Leave Insurance
The Paid Family Leave Insurance program or PFL is a state-sponsored insurance program which offers up to six weeks of partial wage replacement benefits in a 12-month period for certain qualifying events. PFL does not create the right to a leave of absence and does not require employers to create a leave of absence policy or guarantee reinstatement rights other than those already required by applicable law.
PFL provides partial wage replacement for absences to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, registered domestic partner or parent or to bond with a minor child within one year of the child’s birth or placement in connection with foster care or adoption.
Beginning July 1, 2014, employees will also be eligible to receive partial wage replacement under PFL for absences to care for a seriously ill grandparent, grandchild, sibling or parent-in-law.
If you have questions about any of the new employment laws or any other employment-related issues, please feel free to contact me or one of our other employment attorneys. Also, you should consider having your current employee handbook reviewed and updated to comply with the new employment laws. We are happy to review your handbook and provide you with an estimate for updating it. For additional information about updating your handbook, please contact me.