Another year has passed in the California Legislature with the passing of new laws and amendments affecting employers.
Among them are new laws that were prompted by the #MeToo movement, including a law requiring California-based firms include women on their boards.
Of course, the most significant piece of legislation was one that didn’t pass. Business groups throughout the state united behind a bill that would have fixed the California Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year virtually wiping out the legal use of independent contractors, especially in the trucking industry (AA 5-31-18, P. 1).
Even if employers don’t do business in California, employers, these changes may continue into other states.
Here is a rundown of some of the laws enacted:
California is the first state to require public companies have female representation on their boards. A publicly-held corporation with executive offices in California must have a minimum of one female director on its board, and more by 2022.
That law was inspired by the #MeToo movement, and a whole raft more were passed earlier in response to the heightened public awareness of sexual harassment in the workplace.
The legislative package called the “#TakeTheLead” bills also were termed the “boldest” anti-sexual harassment bills in the country.
One new law greatly enlarges the statute of limitations for filing a civil action to collect sexual assault damages for up to 10 years after the alleged assault took place or three years after discovery of an injury as a result of the assault, whichever comes later.
Another law makes it unlawful for an employer – in exchange for a raise or bonus, or as a condition of employment – to require the signing of a nondisclosure agreement or waiver of the right to file claims.
It also expands legal protections to include non-employees regarding any type of harassment banned by state law – not just sexual harassment.
Current law requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide supervisors with two hours of sexual harassment training. Under a new law, by Jan. 1, 2020, all employers with five or more employees must provide two hours of training to supervisors and one hour to non-supervisory employees within six months of hire or promotion, and every two years after that.
One new law requires Cal/OSHA to monitor rulemaking and implementation of the rule. If Cal/OSHA determines that OSHA has “eliminated” or “substantially diminished” the requirements for employers to submit injury and illness data, the state agency will evaluate how to implement the changes necessary to protect the goals of the rule.
Another new law seeks to undo an OSHA policy by changing the statute of limitations for citations or violations regarding recordkeeping requirements from six months after the occurrence of the violation to either the date the violation is corrected or the date the division discovers the violation.
Beginning in 2019, truckers in California may be held jointly and severally liable for unpaid wages, unreimbursed expenses, damages and penalties, and interest, for workers supplied by labor contractors.
Backed by the California Trucking Association, the law also says customers using port drayage carriers share joint and several liability with the draymen.
Another law says a direct contractor is liable for wages unpaid by subcontractors. This repeals previous provisions that relieved direct contractors from liability for anything other than unpaid wages and fringe or other benefit payments or contributions including interest owed.
Under California’s new paid family leave law, an employer may require an employee to take up to two weeks of earned but unused vacation before, and as a condition of, the employee’s receipt of disability benefits. Previously, one week of this vacation leave could be applied to the seven-day waiting period before the receipt of benefits.
Regarding criminal background checks, employers previously had been generally prohibited from seeking the conviction history of an applicant, with some exceptions.
To avoid conflicts with federal law, California now allows employers to consider “particular convictions” relevant to the job in screening applicants. An employer now may obtain information regarding such a conviction, regardless of whether it was expunged, ordered sealed, statutorily eradicated or judicially dismissed.