California Labor and Employment Law
The California Legislature has been active on the labor and employment law front, with a number of bills being introduced in the first month of the legislative session. While the Chamber of Commerce has already deemed several bills to be “job killers”, the proposed laws are intended to protect part-time workers and strengthen equal pay requirements and family leave policies.
Opportunity to Work Act
AB 5, or the Opportunity to Work Act, would require an employer with 10 or more employees to offer additional hours of work to an existing nonexempt employee before hiring an additional employee or subcontractor, except as specified, would require an employer to post a notice of employee rights, as specified, and would require the employer to maintain certain documentation. AB 5 would authorize an employee to file a complaint for violation of these provisions with the division and to, in the alternative, bring a civil action for remedies under the act. The bill also prohibits discrimination and retaliation against employees and make a violation of these provisions punishable by a civil penalty.
In a press release accompanying introduction of the bill, Assemblymember Gonzalez Fletcher stated, “Even as we've won increases in the minimum wage to help part-time workers, that just won't cut it if you can't get enough hours of work…the Opportunity to Work Act will provide a boost to the millions of workers in California who want to work more so they can afford the necessities of life and to take care of themselves and their families in a time when housing costs, student debt, and surprise expenses are increasingly difficult to manage.”
AB 5 has been referred to the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment and has not been set for a hearing yet, but will likely be heard in March or April.
Equal Pay Requirements
Existing law prohibits an employer from paying any of its employees at wage rates less than the rates paid to employees of the opposite sex for substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions, unless the employer demonstrates that one or more specific factors, reasonably applied, account for the entire wage differential. Existing law also similarly prohibits an employer from paying any of its employees at wage rates less than the rates paid to employees of another race or ethnicity for substantially similar work. Employees paid lesser wages in violation of these prohibitions can file a complaint with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. Currently, the employee, the division, or the Department of Industrial Relations can commence a civil action for the wages the employee was deprived of because of the violation, interest on those wages, and liquidated damages.
AB 46, as introduced Assemblymember Jim Cooper, defines “employer” for the actions above to include public and private employers. In other words, AB 46 specifies that the California Equal Pay Act applies to both public and private sector employers. To many, this bill is about ensuring that the law applies to the Legislature itself, a shortcoming that was raised during last year's session.
Family Leave Proposals
Already in 2017, we have seen two bills introduced in the California Legislature that repeat policy proposals from recent years dealing with family leave. Senate Bill 62 by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) would amend the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) to cover leave to care for grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, and parents-in-law. The bill would also remove existing age and dependency restrictions on the existing definition of “child” under CFRA to, for example, cover leave to care for adult children who are otherwise independent.
Senator Jackson has also introduced Senate Bill 63, a reintroduction of her efforts in 2016 to provide job-protected leave to employees who work for employers not covered under the CFRA.
SB 63 applies to employers with 20 or more employees (within 75 miles of the worksite) but increases the leave entitlement to twelve weeks, rather than six weeks. SB 63 is actually broader than the bill that was sent to the Governor last year,, leaving room for negotiating amendments to the bill during the legislative process.
SB 63 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations and the Senate Judiciary Committee and will likely be heard in March or April.
California employment law
If you have any questions about California employment law, contact Kingsley & Kingsley to speak with one of our experienced labor lawyers.