The year 2019 is shaping up to be a good year for workers in California. Several laws have gone into effect that benefit workers’ rights. Perhaps spurred on by the frustrations voiced during the MeToo movement, many of these laws strengthen existing laws dealing with sexual harassment and discrimination. Additionally, there is a raise in the minimum wage as well as overtime pay for agricultural workers.
This article will briefly discuss some of the new changes to California employment law. If you have questions about any of these changes, or you feel you’ve been the target of harassment or some other employment violation, contact our office to schedule a consultation.
The Changes, a Brief List
One – Minimum wage increase – This year, the minimum wage in California has been bumped for companies with 25 or more workers from $11 per hour to $12 per hour. Companies with fewer workers will now be required to pay their employees $10.50 per hour.
Two – Criminal History and Employment Applications – A new senate bill clarifies existing law dealing with job applicants who have criminal histories. Under current law, employers are prohibited from basing hiring decisions on a job applicant’s conviction record if that conviction has been sealed, or dismissed. There are exceptions to this law, such as if the applicant would be required to carry a firearm as part of the job.
In some cases, the employer is legally required to inquire about certain criminal histories. The new law limits these inquiries to “particular convictions” as opposed to convictions in general. A particular conviction is defined under the new law as “a conviction for specific criminal conduct or a category of criminal offenses prescribed by any federal law, federal regulation, or state law that contains requirements, exclusions or both, expressly based on that specific criminal conduct or category of criminal offenses.
The purpose of this law is to prevent companies from being overzealous when required to look into an applicant’s past criminal history.
Three – Settlement Agreements and Sexual Harassment Disclosure– Lawsuit settlement agreements can no longer include provisions that prevent sexual harassment victims from disclosing factual information regarding their experiences. This means that if an employee settles a lawsuit with a company after experiencing harassment, he or she will be free to testify about this experience.
While the harassed person will be free to discuss the factual circumstances of the harassment, the actual settlement amount can still be kept secret by a non-disclosure clause. However, the law allows for settlement provisions that shield the identity of the sexually-harassed victim.
Four – Defamation Protection– It used to be that employees who had experienced sexual harassment and reported it could be exposed to a defamation suit. Thanks to Assembly Bill 2770, allegations of sexual harassment based on credible evidence and without malice are protected from such liability.
Five – Mandatory Sexual Harassment Training– While mandatory sexual harassment training has been in effect for years, it’s only applied to companies with 50 or more employees. The updated law has been broadened to include businesses with as few as five employees. Every two years, employees will be required to go through training. This includes one hour for non-supervisory staff, and two hours for supervisors.
Six – Agricultural Workers to Get Overtime – Prior to the passage of this law, agricultural workers were exempt from California’s overtime rules. Assembly bill 1066 will change this in phases over a period of four years. Among the immediate provisions of the law, workers who toil for more than nine and a half hours in one day (or more than 55 hours a week) must be paid time and a half for their overtime work.
By the year 2022, the law will require that agricultural workers putting in more than 12 hours in a day be paid at least double their normal hourly rate. Additionally, persons working more than eight hours a day (more than 40 hours a week) must be paid time and a half.
Seven – Females on Boards of Directors – California law now requires that publicly-held companies with executive offices in California have at least one female director on the board.
Eight – Breastfeeding at Work – Employers are now required to make reasonable requirements to provide rooms for breastfeeding that aren’t bathrooms.
Have Questions? – Ask an Employment Attorney
The changes to the laws discussed on this page only scratch the surface. Each law contains nuance, and most workers dealing with a bad employer require the help of a good lawyer to seek justice.
If you believe your rights as an employee have been violated, it’s recommended you talk to a lawyer sooner than later. California’s statutes of limitation mean that a person filing a claim against an employer is always fighting the clock.
Having a good lawyer on your side might mean the difference between a check or a fair settlement for your pain and suffering. Whether you’ve dealt with wage theft, discrimination, harassment or some other employment related violation, a good lawyer will be indispensable in helping you get your life back on track. Call the office of Branigan Robertson with your questions and find out how we can help.