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10 New California Employment Laws in 2016 That Will Benefit Employees

2016-california-employment-laws-for-employees.jpg

In 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a number of employment law-related bills that could have a significant impact on both California workers and employers in 2016. Many of the bills included employment laws that will offer employees even more protections under California law, including: SB 358, a law that will aggressively close the gender wage gap, AB 1509 that offers greater whistleblower and anti-retaliation protections, and California's notable minimum wage increase.

The following summary will fill you in on the laws that will further protect California employees from workplace discrimination, retaliation, and more in 2016.

2016-california-employment-laws-for-employees.jpg

In 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a number of employment law-related bills that could have a significant impact on both California workers and employers in 2016. Many of the bills included employment laws that will offer employees even more protections under California law, including: SB 358, a law that will aggressively close the gender wage gap, AB 1509 that offers greater whistleblower and anti-retaliation protections, and California's notable minimum wage increase.

The following summary will fill you in on the laws that will further protect California employees from workplace discrimination, retaliation, and more in 2016.

Important California Employment Laws Taking Effect in 2016

1.) Accommodation Request as Protected Activity - AB 987

AB 987 will amend Government Code section 12940 to state that an employee's request for either reasonable religious or disability accommodation is considered a protected activity. The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), will prohibit workplace discrimination and employer retaliation against California workers for requesting such accommodations, regardless of whether requests are granted.

More information on AB 987 and protected activities

2.) California Minimum Wage Increase

On January 1, 2016, the minimum wage in California will increase to $10 per hour. In addition to that, many California cities have their own local minimum wage ordinances in place that exceed the state minimum wage. California's minimum wage increase will also affect the salary threshold for exempt employees under the state's minimum wage and overtime requirements under the "white collar" exemptions (administrative, executive, and learned professionals). In order for California employees to qualify as exempt under these exemptions, they must be paid double minimum wage or more. At the start of 2016, California exempt employees must also receive an annual salary of at least $41,600 (or higher for computer professionals and highly compensated employees).

Additional information on California's minimum wage increase

3.) California Whistleblower and Anti-Retaliation Protections - AB 1509

AB 1509 will expand retaliation protections in Labor Code section 98.6. The new law will prohibit employers from retaliating against an employee if he or she is a family member of someone who has, or is perceived to have, engaged in protected activity under applicable provisions of the Labor Code. AB 1509 will also extend financial responsibility for retaliation by a staffing firm or other labor contractor to the "client employer." The law will also adopt the definition of a "client employer" from Labor Code section 2810.3: "A business entity, regardless of its form, that obtains or is provided workers to perform labor within its usual course of business from a labor contractor."AB 1509 will also add provisions to Labor Code section 1102.5 (the California Whistleblower Act) and to Labor Code section 6310 (workplace safety complaints).

Learn more about employee protections under AB 1509

4.) E-Verify Use Restrictions - AB 622

California's E-Verify Bill, AB 622, prevents employers from using the E-Verify system to check the employment authorization status of both existing employees and job applicants (except as required by federal law or as a condition of receiving federal funds). AB 622 will further establish California as a pacesetter for immigration issues, expanding the rights of undocumented immigrant workers, protecting them from both discrimination and retaliation. If employers are caught abusing the E-Verify system, they are liable to pay $10,000 per violation of the bill's provisions.

More on the new E-Verify law

5.) Family-School Partnership Act and Kin Care Leave Amendments - SB 579

Effective January 1, 2016, SB 579 will amend California's Kin Care law (Labor Code section 233) in order to tie its protections to the reasons and definition of "family member" specified in the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (i.e., paid sick leave law). SB 579 will also expand the coverage of California's school activities leave (Family School Partnership Act, Labor Code section 230.8) to include day care facilities and cover child care provider emergencies. It will also extend protections to employees who are step-parents or foster parents, plus those who stand in loco parentis to children.

More information on SB 579

6.) Gender Wage Equality - SB 358

California's Fair Pay Bill, SB 358, will grant new tools to challenge gender-based wage gaps to female workers in California, offering the most aggressive equal-pay protections in the United States. SB 358 will expand California's existing equal pay law and goes further than federal law by placing the burden on the employer to prove that male workers' higher pay rates are based on other factors than gender. The law will also offer more protections in terms of employer retaliation and workplace discrimination if California employees ask questions about the amount of money their co-workers earn. SB 358 will also grant employees a possible cause of action if they are paid less than coworkers with different job titles, but who engage in "substantially similar" work.

More on how SB 358 will help close the gender wage gap

7.) Judgment Enforcement on Employers - SB 588

SB 588, or the "wage theft" law, will make it easier for California's Labor Commissioner to collect unpaid wages on behalf of workers. The law also helps the commissioner to file liens on employers' properties to help California employees collect the compensation that's owed to them.

Learn more about how the wage theft law protects employees

8.) Labor Commissioner Enforcement Powers Expansion - AB 970

AB 970 would allow the Labor Commissioner to issue citations for violations of any applicable "local" overtime laws. It would also amend Labor Code section 2802 to authorize the Labor commissioner to issue penalties and citations against California employers who are in violation of properly reimbursing employees for any expenses incurred during employment. AB 970 also allows the Labor Commissioner to investigate and enforce "local" overtime and minimum wage laws.

Learn more about AB 970

9.) Professional Cheerleaders Classified as Employees - AB 202

AB 202 will soon classify California's professional cheerleaders as employees for purposes of collecting minimum wage, plus other issues related to unemployment and employment discrimination laws. AB 202 will cover cheerleaders who perform for teams that play a majority of their home games in the state of California. AB 202 will also cover cheerleaders utilized by California sports teams directly or through labor contractors. This will help many of the cheerleaders who are currently independent contractors, as they could be paid more if classified as employees.

More on the new employee classification of California's cheerleaders

10.) Workers Compensation Benefits for Undocumented Workers - SB 623

The new California workers' compensation law that will become effective in January 2016, SB 623, provides that people should not be excluded from receiving benefits under the Uninsured Employers Fund or the Subsequent Injuries Benefits Trust Fund based on immigration status or citizenship. Current California regulations were adopted upon the enactment by those who voted in favor of Proposition 187 in 1994, an initiative that restricted the rights of undocumented immigrants. These regulations still prohibit California's undocumented workers from receiving benefits from both the UEBTF and the SIBTF, resulting in the loss of any benefits for undocumented injured workers. SB 623 will override these regulations which prevent undocumented workers for the aforementioned benefits.

Learn more about SB 623 and workers comp benefits

Download a free whitepaper from CalChamber that details all the new laws - New Year: New California Employment Laws

If your employer is subjecting you to workplace discrimination, harassment or wrongful termination, California employment law is on your side. Contact the California employment lawyers at Hennig Ruiz for a free consultation today.

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