California's latest budget bill (trailer bill SB 96) contains various changes to the state's employment laws.
Senate Bill 96 passed the Senate on June 15, 2017 and was officially enrolled on June 20, 2017. The bill is currently on Governor Brown's desk with more than 30 tenets covering changes in the Departments of Veteran's Affairs, Elections and Finance. It also contains numerous changes to Labor Standards Enforcement, Public Works Enforcement and OSHA Violations. Below we highlight changes to key employment laws contained in SB 96 as described in various legislative analyses.
Labor Standards Enforcement
Senate Bill 96 specifies that the statute of limitations on workers recovering unpaid wages and other penalties looks back from the date that an employer is notified of a Bureau of Field Enforcement investigation, to preserve the ability to recover unpaid wages and penalties that would have moved beyond the statute of limitations by the time a citation is issued. SB 96 also stipulates the following:
- Allows certain workers in the car wash, farm labor, and garment manufacturing industries to recover unpaid wages and other damages from existing state special funds, and allow the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) to subsequently recover the unpaid wages and damages from employers to reimburse those special funds.
- Extends the time the Retaliation Complaints Investigation unit at the Department of Industrial Relations has to investigate a retaliation complaint from 60 days to one year.
- Extends the time for employers to comply with DLSE's determination on a retaliation complaint investigation from 10 days to 30 days.
- Requires an employer to pay for DLSE's legal costs when DLSE prevails in an action to enforce its determination on a retaliation complaint investigation.
- Clarifies that workers may not be retaliated against for reporting a work-rated fatality, injury, or illness, or other activities protected by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act.
Public Works Enforcement
Requires that contractors and subcontractors engaged in the performance of a public work must be registered as a public works contractor for work on or after January 1, 2018, regardless of a contract date, and raises the registration fee from $300 to $400. Registration is only required for projects over $25,000 for new construction; over $15,000 for maintenance. The bill also allows the labor commissioner to charge a penalty of $100 per day, up to $8,000 total, for contractors failing to register with the state. And allows the Labor Commission to issue and serve a stop order prohibiting the use of unregistered contractor or subcontractor on all public works until they are registered.
Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) Penalty Compliance
SB 96 makes it unlawful for an employer to discharge or discriminate against an employee for reporting a work-related fatality, injury or illness (other than Labor Code Section 132a retaliation claims for filing a workers' compensation claim). The bill also updates various civil penalties, including:
- Increases maximum civil penalties for non-serious, posting, record keeping, and notice requirements from $7,000 to $12,471.
- Increases maximum civil penalties for willful or repeat violations from $70,000 to $124,709 (and not less than $8,908).
- Indexes these amounts annually for inflation.
- Deletes civil penalty maximums for certain crane safety order violations and violations related to carcinogens.
California's Existing Employment Laws
While SB 96 is being considered by Governor Brown, don't hesitate to contact Kingsley & Kingsley to speak with one of our experienced labor lawyers if you have questions about any of California's existing employment laws.