Alert California Employers!
2019 brings many important changes that affect the workplace with some new state laws. These new laws will provide added protections for workers but create new liabilities for employers. The laws give more benefits to the workers but increase employers’ legal exposure, and they have faced some push back from employers that would be affected. Workers and employers alike can explore some of the major changes below:
In 2016, a law went into effect that aimed to raise the minimum wage in California to $15 an hour by 2023. On the first of this year, the latest phase of this law came into play, raising the minimum from $11 to $12 for employers with more than 25 workers and $10.50 to $11 for those employers less than 25 workers. However, other counties in California are taking the next step and raising wages ahead of the legal requirement, including Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Pasadena, and Malibu. Larger companies, such as Amazon and Disneyland Resorts, already offer the $15 hourly minimum to provide competitive wages for prospective workers.
In the past, some employers required employees who reported sexual harassment on the job to sign NDAs (Non-Disclosure Agreements) before potential settlements could be reached. As of 2019, Senate Bill 820 prohibits companies from doing so moving forward; however, the victim will be allowed to stay anonymous if they prefer that their identity remain undisclosed. This is not the only breakthrough on this front: A new law will reverse a previous one where a “single incident” of harassment was not considered illegal. This invited one-time offenders to get a “pass” on potential liability.
Two other bills related to sexual harassment were put into place this year as well via Senate Bill 224 and Senate Bill 1343. One extends sexual harassment protections to investors, officials, directors, and producers. This means employees of one company who are not directly involved in a separate company, but interact with that same company, can be protected as well. The second bill requires any employer with five or more workers to provide training on sexual harassment procedures. That number of employees was previously 50 or more, which overlooked companies below that number and didn’t have the proper training for such situations.
Bill 2334 will be put into place to allow Cal/OSHA to extend the time period in which they can issue citations to employers who fail to report injuries or deaths from six months to five years. This covers long-term injuries or health hazards that don’t expose themselves in the initial six month period, such as smoke-related hazards. This means it is essential for companies to keep accurate records for the five year period in case Cal/OHSA needs to inspect or verify them.
Between Los Angeles and Long Beach, nearly 25,000 truck drivers deliver to various warehouses for major retailers and manufacturers. Since 2011, almost 1,000 of these drivers have made complaints against their employer regarding workplace violations; about $40 million in fines from the past four years are still unpaid from these violations.
A new law requires the California labor commissioner to create a list of the trucking companies that still fail in complying with unpaid wages and worker compensation liability. The second part of this law also brings the retailers and manufacturers that hire these trucking companies into the claims against the trucking companies. This means these trucking companies will start to see some retailers and manufacturers drop their services to avoid the liability forced on them.
A law was put into place requiring workplaces to have a separate space set aside as a private lactation space for mothers who still need to feed newborn babies with breast milk. Many pediatricians recommend that babies be fed breast milk up to the age of six months, and many mothers go back into the workplace before that time is up, forcing mothers to collect breast milk during the work day in bathrooms. This law addresses these situations by giving mothers a secure space to breastfeed.
Women Board Members
This law is one that is not going into effect until the end of the year, but it requires companies to act during the year in order to be compliant. Senate Bill 826 requires any publicly-traded company headquartered in California to have at least one woman on its board of directors. The law goes even further by requiring that boards with five directors to include two women and boards with six or more to have three women by the end of 2021. Those companies that do not comply will be subject to fines.
If you’d like to learn more about how these changes might affect you, contact Koppekin Consulting at:
Stephen M. Koppekin