California Gov. Jerry Brown recently completed acting on the 1,217 bills that came across his desk this year. He has signed 1,016 of them into law, with the majority taking effect on January 1.
We examine some of the more prominent new California employment laws, including several new laws to increase protections against harassment discrimination, that may impact your business in 2019.
Sexual Harassment or Assault-Related Claims and Training
SB 820 – No Confidentiality of Settlements
Parties are now prohibited from non-disclosure provisions in settlement agreements related to civil or administrative complaints of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and workplace harassment or discrimination based on sex.
However, the parties may agree to restrict disclosure of the settlement amount and protect the claimant’s identity, at the request of the claimant, so long as the opposing party is not a government agency or a public official is not a party to the settlement agreement.
Businesses will need to review their standard settlement agreements to remove overly broad restrictions and also be aware that SB 820 goes beyond sexual harassment, applying to any workplace discrimination claims based on sex.
SB 1343 – Increased Sexual Harassment Prevention Training
The new law requires businesses with five or more employees to provide sexual harassment prevention training to all staff. Previously, only companies with 50 or more employees were required to provide such training and only to supervisory personnel.
Under SB 1343, companies need to provide at least two hours of sexual harassment prevention and education training to all supervisory employees, and at least one hour of sexual harassment prevention training to all nonsupervisory employees by January 1, 2020 and every two years thereafter.
For companies struggling to create training curriculum, the law directs the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing to develop training materials that comply with the new requirements, which employers can borrow from.
Discrimination and Accommodation
SB 826 – Gender Representation on the Board of Directors
All publicly held companies with the principal office in California must have a minimum of one female director on its board by the end of next year.
If the company has five directors, the requirement rises to two female board members, and three for companies with six or more directors — by the end of 2021.
SB 1300 – Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) Amendments
New provisions expand liability under FEHA. SB 1300 prohibits an employer to require an employee to sign a release of their employment discrimination claims in exchange for a salary raise, bonus, or continued employment. Employers are liable for sexual harassment by non-employees, including contractors, customers or vendors, if the employer was aware or should have been aware of the harassment but didn’t take any remedial steps. Employers’ liability is expanded to any other type of harassment such as harassment based on employees’ age or disability.
AB 1976 – Lactation Accommodation
California employers must provide a private location in close proximity to the employee’s work area, other than a toilet stall, to express milk in private for the employee’s child. Employers are also required to allow these employees a reasonable amount of break time.
AB 2587 – Disability Compensation: Paid Family Leave
Paid Family Leave provides benefits to employees who need to take time off work to care for a seriously ill child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or registered domestic partner. Benefits are also available to new parents who need time to bond with a new child. AB 2587 removes the seven-day waiting period that went into effect on January 1, 2018.
Wage and Hour
SB 1252 – Wages Records Inspection And Copying
This bill amends Section 226 of the Labor Code. Starting January 2019 employers will be required to provide employees the right to “receive a copy” of employment records, and not just the right to “inspect or copy records” as currently required under Labor Code Section 226.
AB 2610 – Meal Break Exception for Feed Truck Drivers
AB 2610 provides a limited meal break exception for certain commercial drivers, transporting commercial feed to customers in remote rural areas, and authorizes them to commence the meal period after six hours of work under these conditions:
a) the driver is transporting nutrients and byproducts from a licensed commercial feed manufacturer to a customer located in a remote rural location; and
b) the driver receives no less than one and one-half times the state minimum wage and overtime compensation when required by law.
SB 1412 – Consideration of Criminal History
Employers are prohibited from considering judicially expunged or sealed criminal convictions in hiring decisions. Employers may be excepted from this regulation only if other states or federal laws require consideration of the expunged or sealed convictions.
AB 2282 – Salary History
The Labor Code will be amended to clarify last year’s salary history inquiry ban as follows: a) employers may ask about an applicant’s salary expectations; b) only external applicants are entitled to a pay scale upon request upon completion of an initial interview. The code also clarifies that “applicant” refers to an individual seeking employment and not a current employee seeking an internal transfer or promotion.
What to do next?
Review your existing practices and employee handbooks, and make any necessary updates to ensure compliance with the new laws.
If you need assistance, experienced UpCounsel attorneys are ready to provide you with expert advice on these and other legislative changes that may impact your business in 2019