California Wage Hour Laws 2014
2014 Wage and Hour Law Changes
Every year there are new laws that take effect in California. There are a variety of new laws that pertain to employment in the state. The laws affect different aspects of employment and range from wage and hour requirements to mandated heat recovery periods for outdoor workers. It is important for employers and employees to be aware of these changes in the laws.
Minimum Wage (AB 10 and AB 442)
The minimum wage in California will increase to $9 per hour starting on July 1, 2014. Employers should confirm that currently exempt employees will continue to meet minimum wage requirements in the state. The City and County of San Francisco increased the minimum wage to $10.74 per hour as of January 1, 2014. The City of San Jose increased the minimum wage to $10.15 per hour, effective January 1, 2014. Employers who pay less than the minimum wage could be subject to liquidated damages to the employee along with existing penalties.
Restrictions on Background Checks (SB 530 and AB 218)
As of January 1, 2014, employers are prohibited from looking at prior criminal convictions in employment decisions after the conviction has been judicially dismissed. Beginning July 1, 2014, state and local agencies will not be allowed to ask a job applicant to disclose information regarding a criminal conviction until after there has been a determination that the job applicant meets the minimum job qualifications.
Heat Illness Prevention Rest Periods (SB 435)
The state of California has expanded a worker’s break entitlements throughout the workday to include “heat illness and recovery periods.” Employers can’t require non-exempt employees to work during a recovery period. A recovery period is defined as a “cool down period afforded to an employee to prevent heat illness.” Employees who are not given a recovery period will be entitled to one extra hour of pay each workday that the recovery period is not allowed.
Employers with outdoor places of employment are subject to Cal/OSHA’s heat illness standard, which allows for cooldown periods in the shade of no less than 5 minutes at a time on an as-needed basis for employees to protect themselves from overheating.
Protection for Asserting Rights Under Labor Code (AB 263)
The law currently protects employees who claim their rights under the Labor Code from termination and discrimination. 2014 has brought an expansion of the law to prohibit retaliation or other adverse actions against those employees and clarification that oral or written complaints about unpaid wages are protected. The statute now allows a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per employee per violation.
Discrimination Protection (AB 556)
“Military and veteran status” is now on the list of categories that are protected from discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. Under the new law the status is defined as “a member or veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces, U.S. Armed Forces Reserve, the U.S. National Guard, and the California National Guard.”
Definition of Sexual Harassment (SB 292)
The definition of sexual harassment has been clarified. The new law states that sexual harassment may involve actions that are unmotivated by sexual desire.
Caregiver Leave – San Francisco Ordinance
The Family-Friendly Workplace Ordinance mandates that covered employers take into consideration requests for “flexible or predictable working arrangements to assist with care giving responsibilities.” Workers are shielded from adverse actions based on caregiver status. San Francisco employers will be required to display a poster describing this ordinance in the workplace.
New Protection for Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking Victims (SB 400)
New law expands the protections for victims of domestic violence or sexual assault to victims of stalking. California employers may not discharge, discriminate against, or retaliate against an employee who needs to take time off of work to appear in court or attend any related legal proceedings. Employers who have 25 or more employees are now required to provide leave for psychological or medical treatment, including safety planning. Employers may not discriminate or retaliate against an employee because of status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to those employees, including the implementation of safety measures.
Whistleblower Protection (SB 496)
Protection for whistleblowers has been broadened to include reporting alleged violations of local rules and regulations. The law now protects workers who disclose, or might disclose, information regarding alleged violations to a person with authority over the employee or another employee who has authority to investigate, discover or correct the violation. Retaliation against an employee based on a belief that the employee disclosed or might disclose information is strictly prohibited.
Protection for Immigrants (AB 263)
Employers are now prohibited from taking part in “unfair immigration related practices” when an employee asserts rights under the Labor Code. The new law contains several penalties including a private right of action and civil penalties up to $10,000 per employee per violation for retaliation against the employee. Under the new law, the court has the option of suspending or revoking a business license if an employer violates these provisions.
Emergency Duty Leave (AB 11)
California has broadened its law allowing leave for volunteer firefighters to train for emergency duty. Employers with 50 or more workers are now required to allow employees to take up to 14 days off to train for emergency duties as reserve peace officers or emergency rescue personnel.
Leave For Crime Victims (SB 288)
Protection for certain crime victims has been expanded in California. Crime victims are now allowed to take time off of work to appear in any court proceeding in which their rights as a victim are at issue. This new law does not apply to all crime victims; and employees must follow requirements for requesting time off.
Paid Family Leave Benefits (SB 770)
The definition of “family” is being expanded in California within the Paid Family Leave program, starting on July 1, 2014. Employees will now be allowed to receive partial wage replacement benefits while taking care of siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, and parents in-law. Under currently existing law, the right to receive state Paid Family Leave benefits is separate from whether or not an employee has a protected right to take leave. The definition of “family” was not changed in leave statutes.
Bad Faith Wage Claims – Attorney’s Fees (SB 462)
New law allows an award of attorney’s fees and costs to an employer who wins in an action brought for the non-payment of wages and health and welfare pension fund contributions, only when the court finds that the employee brought the action in bad faith.
Wage Withholding Violations – Criminal Penalties (SB 390)
Employers who do not remit withholdings from a worker’s wages that were made pursuant to state, local, or federal law may face criminal penalties in addition to other liability.