CalNonprofits Articles

[A 2016 Employment Law Update from Public Counsel] California has recently adopted a number of new laws that may substantially impact nonprofit employers. Below is an overview of some of the most important new laws:

Discrimination and Retaliation Protections
Senate Bill 358 revises and strengthens existing protections for "equal pay." Existing law prohibits employers from paying an employee a wage rate less than the rate paid to the opposite sex "within the same establishment" for "equal work." SB 358 eliminates the "within the same establishment" requirement and replaces "equal work" to "substantially similar work," based on each employee's composite level of skill, effort, and responsibility, which are performed under similar working conditions. (Cal. Labor Code § 1197.5(a)). SB 358 also places a greater burden on an employer to defend a wage discrimination claim by affirmatively showing that the wage differential is not based on or derived from a sex-based differential, is related to the job at issue, and is consistent with a business necessity. (Cal. Labor Code § 1197.5(a)(1)(D)). The law strengthens anti-retaliation provisions of state law and includes a private right of action for employees. (Cal. Labor Code § 1197.5(g); (j)). Additionally, the law increases the duration of employer's record-keeping requirements from two years to three years. (Cal. Labor Code § 1197.5(d)).

Assembly Bill 1509 expands protections offered under state law for employee whistleblowing and work condition-related complaints by prohibiting an employer from taking any retaliatory action against employees who are also family members of the complainant-employee.

Time-Off Protections
Assembly Bill 304 clarifies that employees covered under the mandatory sick leave law must work for the same employer for 30 days or more within a year in order to qualify for sick leave. AB 304 also provides flexibility to an employer in measuring sick day accrual as long as employees are given a minimum of 24 hours (three days) of paid sick leave by the 120th day of employment. Once the 120th day minimum is achieved, employers can limit accrued paid sick leave to the 24 hours (three days) for each 12 month period of employment. If an employee is terminated without a sick leave payout, and then re-hired within one year, the employee's unused paid sick leave must be reinstated. Employers must also provide notice of paid sick leave or paid time off available. 

Senate Bill 579 increases the reasons for which employees can take job-protected paid time off to care for themselves or family members. Employees may now also take one-half of their paid time off for purposes of diagnosis, care, treatment, or prevention of health conditions for themselves or family members. SB 579 also expands the meaning of "family members" to include stepparents, foster parents, or any individuals standing in loco parentis to a child. Employers may not discriminate or discharge employees for taking paid time off for these reasons and should update their policies to ensure consistency with this law.

Other Protections
Senate Bill 623 amends workers compensation regulations to allow employees, regardless of their citizenship or immigration status, to apply to receive funds from the Uninsured Employers Fund of the Subsequent Injuries Benefits Trust Fund in the event that their employers fail to compensate them for injuries sustained during the course of employment. Prior to SB 623, undocumented employees were prohibited from applying to receive benefits from these funds.

Assembly Bill 1245 will require employers with 10 or more employees to electronically file the mandatory report of their contributions, quarterly returns, reports of wages paid, and to electronically remit contributions for unemployment insurance premiums. These employers will no longer be allowed to submit hard copies of these reports and a $50 penalty will be imposed on employers that fail to electronically file the reports or electronically submit insurance contributions.

For more information contact Public Counsel

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