Seyfarth Synopsis: Recent California legislation, including laws banning questions about salary history and criminal convictions, has bought new interview jitters for employers. These new laws, along with the Fair Employment and Housing Act’s prohibitions against questions going to an applicant’s protected status, confirms the point that there is such a thing as a “bad interview question.” In this ever-changing legal landscape, it is important for California employers to know what they can and cannot ask candidates in a job interview.

Although Michael Scott’s fictional character in The Office would have us believe there is no such thing as a “bad question,” that expression holds less true in California today than ever. California’s legislative updates in the last year have made job interviews more perilous than ever for the unwary employer.

The Legislature has recently introduced prohibitions on salary history and criminal conviction questions for certain employers. What is more, the FEHA prohibits questions like Michael Scott’s zinger, “Why are you the way that you are?”—a question that could go to various protected statuses, such as race, national origin, sex, nationality, and gender.

While such restrictions seem straightforward, implementing them is not always a no-brainer. Indeed, according to one survey, one in five hiring managers admitted that they have asked a question in a job interview only to find out later that it was illegal to ask.

So if you are looking to recruit for a temporary role, or hiring to fill the next coveted regional manager role at Dunder Mifflin, certain interview questions can have you breaking a sweat in California in 2019:

  1. Have You Ever Been Convicted of a Crime?

What used to be a common check-the-box question on employment applications is now illegal to ask before the employment offer stage. In late 2017, California joined several states in introducing “ban the box” laws to reduce barriers to applicants in the pre-hiring stage. Under AB 1008, California employers with more than five employees now must not

  • include on any job application questions that seek the disclosure of an applicant’s conviction history,
  • ask about or consider the conviction history of an applicant until he/she has received a conditional offer, or
  • consider, distribute, or disseminate information related to specified prior arrests, diversions, and convictions when conducting a conviction history background check.
  • San Francisco’s version of the “ban the box” legislation provides even greater protections to job candidates and includes stiff penalties for violations.
  1. How Much Do You Currently Make?

With the passage of AB 168, effective January 1, 2018, California employers must not ask job applicants for “salary history information” or rely on that information in deciding whether to offer a job and how much to pay. But if the applicant voluntarily discloses salary history, the employer may consider or rely on that information in setting salary so long as prior salary is not the only factor justifying any disparity in pay.

Under recent legislation clarifying the scope of AB 168, employers can ask about an applicant’s salary expectations for the position.

  1. Where Are You From?

The innocent icebreaker questions, “Where were you born?” or “Where are you from?” or “How long have you lived in the U.S.?” can land employers in hot water. Such questions, though seemingly offhanded, can be interpreted as questions about the applicant’s national origin.

Also, California’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency has made it clear that the state’s labor protections apply to all employees—regardless of their immigration status. Thus, you should stay clear of questions about a candidate’s citizenship (unless U.S. citizenship is a legal job requirement). You can, however, ask whether the applicant has a legal right to work in the United States, so long as you do not do so on a discriminatory basis.

  1. When Did You Graduate High School?

Questions about a candidate’s age are prohibited under both California’s FEHA and the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Thus, employers should stay away from questions that could reveal a candidate’s age, like “What year did you graduate high school?”

You may ask a candidate’s age, however, if the job has a minimum age requirement, for example, if it involves serving alcohol.

  1. Are You Married?

Any questions related to parenthood or marital status are off limits. Prohibited questions include whether an applicant is married, pregnant, or plans to be in the future. Even the innocuous question, “What does your spouse do?” should be avoided as it could be seen as a round-about way of getting to the candidate’s marital status. It’s perfectly OK, though, to ask such questions after the candidate has been hired.

Workplace Solutions:

You may find yourself at an interview in the predicament Michael Scott describes best, “Sometimes I’ll start a sentence and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way.” Often people develop an easy rapport at an interview, making it hard to “unsay” questions—even illegal ones. Take note of the following guidelines to ace that next interview so you can indeed be the “World’s Best Boss.”

  • Read the fact sheet developed by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which offers guidance on questions employers can ask applicants.
  • To the extent feasible, prepare questions in advance, to help avoid drifting off into forbidden territory.
  • Train job interviewers and HR personnel on what interview questions are illegal and improper.

If you have any questions about this guidance or about illegal pre-hiring questions in California, feel free to contact your favorite Seyfarth attorney.

Seyfarth Synopsis: On September 11, AB 1209, the Gender Pay Gap Transparency Act, which would require larger employers in California to publish differences in pay between male and female employees and Board members, left the Legislature on route to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for his approval or veto. A statewide salary history ban may soon be headed to his desk, as well.

In face of last month’s suspended implementation of “Component 2” of the Revised EEO-1 Report, which would have required employers with over 100 employees to submit W-2 pay and FLSA hours worked information, California moves forward with its own pay data transparency initiative.

Dubbed by Cal Chamber as the “public shaming of employers” bill, AB 1209 has undergone significant changes since Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher introduced it on February 17, 2017, as a nonsubstantive “spot bill” relating to wages.

After multiple amendments and the addition of coauthors from both houses, the version of AB 1209 sent to the Governor would require companies with at least 500 employees to compute differences between the wages of male and female exempt employees and board members located in California and file the report with the California Secretary of State (“SOS”). The SOS would in turn, publish this information on a public website.

What Will Employers Have to Do?

If the bill is signed by Gov. Brown, beginning on July 1, 2019, and biennially thereafter, impacted employers will have to collect and compute:

  • The difference between the wages of male and female exempt employees in California using both the mean and median wages in each job classification or title.
  • The difference between the mean and median wages of male board members and female board members located in California.
  • The number of employees used for these determinations.

This information would then be reported to the California SOS by January 1, 2020 (and biennially thereafter) on a form categorized consistent with Labor Code Section 1197.5—the California Fair Pay Act (“FPA”).

What Will the SOS Do with the Data?

The bill would have the SOS publish the reported information on a public website. While the current version of the bill would no longer require companies to publicly publish their own data, placing that duty on the SOS would be no less dangerous for employers.

As Jennifer Barrera of Cal Chamber and Kara Bush of the Computing Technology Industry Association wrote in a recent Sacramento Bee article: “Public display of the data adds insult to injury. Employers would be required to provide statistics on job duties, wages and gender, but without the factors such as experience and seniority that the law says are legitimate reasons for wage gaps. That’s propounding a half-truth—and a public relations windfall for plaintiffs’ attorneys.” Proponents of the bill contend this bill would help to close the gender wage gap. The bill’s author, Assembly Member Gonzalez Fletcher, touts the bill as giving “the public very precise data about which big companies are paying women the salaries they deserve, and which aren’t.” She also said: “Sunlight is a great way to help expose and address this [gender pay disparity] problem.”

No Per Se Violations of the California Fair Pay Act

The bill provides that “a gender wage differential in the information provided under this [new Labor Code] section [the bill would create] is not, in itself, a violation of Section 1197.5.” Nor does the bill impose any penalty or right of action by its own terms. The bill’s opponents have argued it does not need to, because it effectively forces employers to hand over to potential plaintiffs all information they might need to file a lawsuit, without any context that would explain permissible differentials.

Salary History Ban May Also be Headed to Governor’s Desk

The Governor has until October 15, 2017, to consider and sign or veto this and any other bills.

He may also have before him for consideration AB 168, which, as currently drafted, would prohibit an employer from asking for, or relying upon, an applicant’s salary history, consistent with similar bans in San Francisco, New York City, Philadelphia (stayed pending legal challenge), Delaware, Puerto Rico, Oregon and Massachusetts.

AB 168 passed the Senate yesterday, September 12th, and is headed back to the Assembly for a concurrence vote.

Will the Gov Sign One or Both of These Bills? 

Since signing the Fair Pay Act in 2015, Governor Brown has shied away from approving bills making anything other than incremental changes to that Act (last year adding race and ethnicity to gender and prohibiting prior salary alone from justifying a pay disparity), stating the FPA should be given time to work to see if stricter legislation is needed. But the Trump Administration’s pullback of the revised EEO-1 report may provide an impetus for Governor Brown to treat California’s own gender pay gap initiative more favorably.

Stay tuned for our full legislative updates in the coming weeks. For information on how this bill might affect your company, contact your favorite Seyfarth attorney or any member of Seyfarth’s Pay Equity Group.

Seyfarth Synopsis: Although there’s no right or wrong time to do a handbook update, we recommend them annually. Might as well take the opportunity when operations are typically slower, summertime, to give your handbook a shine. We’ve highlighted a few areas upon which to focus when you do so.

Ah, the joys of summer. Maybe it’s the heat, but everything seems a little harder in the summer. The sun is melting everything in sight, and sometimes it seems everyone is on vacation, leaving a little opportunity for the rest of us to have some *gasp* free time? This is the time of year, after all, when everything just seems to slooooooooooooooow dooooooooooooooooooown.

But because we’re all looking for an excuse to spend a little more time in nice air conditioned comfort, and we need to cure that summer boredom, when was the last time you updated your handbook?

Here are a few areas you may want to check while you enjoy that recycled air:

Did you update when the FEHA Regulations were amended last year?

As we discussed here, the FEHA Regulations now include many new requirements for employer policies on harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. If you haven’t had an opportunity to do so, we recommend you dust off those old policies and go through the amended regulations with a fine-toothed comb to see where improvements can be made.

How about breaks?

As we reported here, the end of 2016 saw some developments in the world of rest breaks. Some traditional policies may exert a little too much control over how employees take breaks. We’d definitely use that occasional summer thunderstorm as an excuse to spend time carefully perusing that policy.

What am I wearing?

If your dress code includes gender-specific information, now is a good time to review and make some potential modifications in light of the FEHC regulations on transgender rights, described here.

Sick of sick time yet?

Not that anyone gets sick in the summer, but if your company operates in multiple jurisdictions, it’s a great time to make sure no new sick law affects your employees. California now has six jurisdictions (San Francisco, Oakland, Emeryville, Santa Monica, San Diego, and Los Angeles, summarized here) with sick leave laws for private employers, with Berkeley right around the corner. Take this time to compare these ordinances and the state law with your current policy to make sure you’re in great shape for the upcoming flu season.

It’s also a great opportunity to spruce up your attendance policies to make sure you’re not punishing your employees from properly taking absences covered by these or other leave laws.

Who’s on leave?

A few years back, the California Legislature expanded those activities covered by the Family School Partnership Act, described here. So if you haven’t taken a look at this policy in a while, might as well get that out of the way before school starts up this fall.

For your San Francisco folks, if you haven’t had an opportunity to put together a policy/protocol covering the responsibilities of the San Francisco Paid Parental Leave Ordinance, described here, now is as good a time as any.

Also, as we discussed here, we know the law requiring the notice and posting on Domestic Violence issues became effective on July 1. Perhaps now would be a good time to consider implementing a policy on this if you don’t already have one in place.

Workplace Solution?

Although not every change in the law will make you toss out that old handbook, we do think an annual review, whether over a relaxing summer break or as you shiver indoors this winter, is a great opportunity to ensure you’re complying with the ever-evolving California and local laws. It can also serve as a reminder to compare your handbook with any benefit documents referred to inside.

Go ahead and spend a few minutes with a nice icy glass of lemonade and curl up with your favorite summer read: the company handbook! And contact your favorite Seyfarth counselor to get yours in ship shape before the kiddos come home from camp, and everything gets crazy for back to school.

Seyfarth Synopsis: Just when you thought it was safe to relax for the summer, California is giving employers four new reasons to keep on their toes. Laws going into effect on July 1, 2017, will address (1) domestic violence, (2) the minimum wage, (3) criminal background checks, and (4) transgender rights.

Notice Posting and Leave for Domestic Violence Issues

Employers must now notify employees of workplace rights regarding domestic violence victims. By way of background, Labor Code section 230.1 forbids employers with 25 or more employees to discriminate against employees who take time off to

  • seek medical attention for injuries caused by domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking,
  • obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, program, or rape crisis center as a result of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking,
  • obtain psychological counseling for domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, or
  • participate in safety planning or other actions (including temporary or permanent relocation) to increase safety from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

Employees taking time off must give the employer reasonable advance notice, unless the advance notice is not feasible. But if the employee takes an unscheduled absence, the employee remains protected by providing, within a reasonable time after the absence, a certification of the protected reason for leave. Employers must maintain the confidentiality of the reason.

The Labor Commissioner has developed a notice form for use which can be found here. You can find Section 230.1 here.

Minimum Wage Increases for Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Monica and Emeryville

Earlier this year, California once again hiked its minimum wage (to $10.50).  But for some municipalities that was not enough. On July 1, the minimum wage rises in certain California cities/counties:

Before Increase:                    July 1, 2017:

Emeryville:
(56 or more employees)         $14.82                                     $15.20
(55 or fewer employees)        $13.00                                     $14.00

Los Angeles:
(25 or more employees)         $10.50                                     $12.00
(25 or fewer employees)        $10.00                                     $10.50

San Francisco:                        $13.00                                     $14.00

Santa Monica:
(26 or more employees):        $10.50                                     $12.00
(25 or fewer employees):       $10.00                                     $10.50

For further information, visit your local website.

New Criminal Background Check Regulations

On July 1, the Fair Employment and Housing Council will begin to enforce new regulations which will impose additional burdens on use of criminal background checks in employment decisions. As with any criminal background check policy that creates an adverse impact on a protected class, the employer must justify the policy as job-related and consistent with business necessity.

The regulations identify two ways an employer could justify the policy: (1) show that a “bright-line” disqualification properly distinguishes those who do and do not pose an unacceptable level of risk; (2) individually assess the individual’s qualifications. The employer must also give the applicant or employee a reasonable opportunity to show that the conviction information is wrong. If the individual provides evidence of factual inaccuracy, then the conviction cannot be considered in the employment decision.

Even when an employer can show job-relatedness and business necessity, an individual can still prevail on a claim if there is a less discriminatory alternative (such as a narrower list of disqualifying convictions) that advances the employer’s legitimate concerns as effectively as the challenged practice would.

The regulations pose a substantial new risk to employers who maintain no-hire policies for individuals with criminal convictions. Any such policy should be reviewed for compliance.

You can see the final regulations here.

FEHC Transgender Rights Regulations

On July 1, Fair Employment and Housing Council regulations will expand upon laws relating to gender identity and expression.

As background, note that as of March 1, 2017, all single-user toilet facilities in any California business establishment, place of public accommodation, or government agency must be identified as “all-gender.” As of July 1, transgender employees must have equal access to restrooms and other facilities, including locker rooms, dressing rooms, and dormitories. Employers now must allow employees to use those facilities without regard to the employee’s assigned sex at birth. The regulation provides that employers may make reasonable, confidential inquiries of employees to ensure that facilities are safe and adequate for use.

The July 1st regulation also

  • require employers to honor an employee’s request to be identified by a preferred gender or name,
  • forbid employers to impose appearance, grooming or dress standards inconsistent with an individual’s gender identify and gender expression,
  • forbid employers to require proof of an individual’s sex, gender, gender identity or gender expression, and
  • expand existing gender expression, gender identity and transgender definitions to include “transitioning” employees.

The expanded definition of this protected class may likewise expand liability for harassment, which is particularly likely with respect to a group traditionally subject to discrimination.

Employers should review policies and consider management training to ensure compliance with the California initiatives around gender identity and expression.

You can see the newly adopted regulation here.

Edited by Michael A. Wahlander.

Seyfarth Synopsis: Pay equity and Ban The Box bills lead the list of bills approved to continue their quest (moving to the other house of the California Legislature) to become California law.

Friday, June 2, marked the last day for bills in the California Legislature to pass out of their house of origin—the Senate or Assembly—and continue the legislative process for a shot at becoming a new California Peculiarity. Pay equity and Ban The Box bills lead the list of bills approved to continue moving through the process. Meanwhile, some other feared bills, including the Opportunity to Work Act and retail holiday overtime, did not make the cut. But the substance of these bills, like zombies, may refuse to die and re-emerge through amendment to bills that are still alive. We’ll keep watching, and keep you updated, through the September 15 deadline for bills to pass from the Legislature to the Governor’s desk.

Still Alive:

Pay Equity: Salary Inquiry Ban. AB 168 would prohibit employers, including state and local governments (even the Legislature) from asking applicants about their salary history information, including compensation and benefits. The bill would also require private employers to provide the applicant with the position’s pay scale upon a reasonable request. Will the third time be the charm for this legislation? AB 168 is scheduled for hearing June 14 in the Senate Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations.

Pay Equity: Gender Pay Gap Transparency Act. Attempting a California version of the revised EEO-1 report, AB 1209, effective July 1, 2020, would require employers with 250 or more employees to collect specified data on gender pay differentials, to publish the data on their websites, and to submit the data annually in reporting to the Secretary of State. The required data would include the difference between the mean salary and median salary of male exempt employees and female exempt employees, by job classification or title, and the difference between the mean compensation and median compensation of male board members and female board members. Committee analyses note that this bill was modeled after the recent measure passed in the United Kingdom that requires employers with 250 or more employees to publish their gender pay figures by April 2018.

Applicants: Prior Criminal History. On the heels of Los Angeles’s adoption of “Ban-the-Box,” this year’s attempt at even stronger, state-wide “Ban the Box” legislation marches on. AB 1008 would make it unlawful under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) for an employer to include on any employment application any question seeking disclosure of an applicant’s criminal history, to inquire into or consider the conviction history of an applicant before extending a conditional offer of employment, or to consider or distribute specified criminal history information in conducting a conviction history background check. The bill would require an employer that intends to deny a position solely or in part because of the applicant’s prior conviction to assess whether the applicant’s conviction history has a direct and adverse relationship with the specific job duties. Then, the employer must notify the applicant of the reasons for the decision, provide the applicant time to respond, and consider the response before making a final written employment decision. Exempted from the bill’s scope are criminal justice agencies, farm labor contractors, and positions for which the law requires a state or local agency to conduct a background check or precludes employment based on criminal history.

Voluntary Veterans’ Preference Employment Policy Act. AB 353 would allow private employers to establish a veterans’ preference policy and uniformly grant a hiring preference to veteran applicants, regardless of when the veteran served. This preference would not violate the FEHA or any other local or state equal opportunity employment law or regulation (provided that the policy is not applied for the purpose of discrimination on the basis of any protected classification).

Credit and Debit Card Gratuities. AB 1099 would require entities that allow debit or credit card payment for services to also accept gratuities or tips via debit or credit card, and to pay those gratuities to the worker no later than the next regular payday. Prior to amendments, the bill would have applied to specified employers (lodging establishments, car washes, barber shops and beauty salons, massage parlors, restaurants, and on-demand service providers such as transportation network companies). As amended, rather than specifying the industries to which it applies, AB 1099 defines “entity” as “an organization that uses an online-enabled application or platform to connect workers with customers … including, but not limited to, a transportation network company.” The author’s stated reason for the bill is to make it easier and more reliable for workers in the gig economy to receive tips. The Assembly Appropriations Committee estimates the bill would cost approximately $300,000 in annual enforcement by the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement (“DLSE”), an estimate that could earn this bill the Governor’s veto.

Overtime Compensation: Executive, Administrative, or Professional Employees. AB 1565 would exempt from overtime compensation an executive, administrative, or professional employee who earns a monthly salary of either $3,956 or no less than twice the state minimum wage for full-time employment, whichever amount is higher. The bill states the Legislature does not intend to change the “duties test” of the overtime exemptions established in orders of the Industrial Welfare Commission for executive, administrative, or professional employees;  those provisions would continue to apply. The bill’s proponents argue that it would create “important protection for middle class workers who fall into the gap between the state’s overtime pay protections and what would have been higher overtime protections afforded” by federal Fair Labor Standards Act regulations adopted by President Obama’s US Department of Labor but enjoined through a court challenge. Opponents argue the bill unnecessarily accelerates salary increases for California exempt employees and applies to all employers regardless of size.

Immigration: Worksite Enforcement Actions. AB 450, the proposed “Immigrant Worker Protection Act,” would prohibit an employer from allowing federal immigration agency worksite enforcement authorities warrantless access to nonpublic areas of a place of labor and from releasing employee records to those federal authorities without a subpoena. This bill would also require an employer to notify the Labor Commissioner and employee representative of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification audit within 24 hours of receiving the inspection notice and provide a copy of the notice. The bill would prescribe penalties, recoverable by the Labor Commissioner against employers for failing to satisfy the bill’s requirements and prohibitions, of not less than $2,000-$5,000 for the first violation and $5,000-$10,000 for each subsequent violation.

Good Faith Defense: Employment Violations. SB 524 would permit an employer to raise an affirmative defense that, at the time of an alleged violation of statute or regulation, the employer was acting in good faith when the employer relied upon a valid published DLSE opinion letter or enforcement policy. Even though SB 524 failed to pass the Senate Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations, reconsideration was granted and this bill is heading to the Assembly.

Retaliation: Expanding The Labor Commissioner’s Authority.  A former placeholder bill, as amended, SB 306 would authorize the Labor Commissioner, upon finding reasonable cause to believe an employer discharged or discriminated against an employee in violation of Labor Code section 98.7—before issuing a final determination—to seek temporary and permanent injunctive relief. This bill also would allow the Labor Commissioner to recover attorney’s fees and costs on a successful enforcement action, would authorize the Labor Commissioner to cite and penalize a person it determines violated Section 98.7, and would create procedural requirements for these processes.

Reproductive Health. AB 569 would add a provision to the Labor Code that would prohibit employers from taking any adverse employment action against an employee based on the employee’s or an employee dependent’s reproductive health decisions, methods, or use of a particular drug, device, or medical service (e.g., in vitro fertilization), including the timing of such. This bill would also prohibit employers from requiring employees to sign a code of conduct or similar document denying an employee the right to make such decisions. This bill would also require employers to include a notice of the employee rights and remedies in its handbook.  This bill is aimed at religiously affiliated institutions, noting (in language that would not be codified)  the Legislature’s agreement with Justice Alito in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC (2012) 565 U.S. 171, 199, that “the ministerial exception should apply only to an ‘employee who leads a religious organization, conducts worship services or important religious ceremonies or rituals, or serves as a messenger or teacher of its faith.’”

New Parent Leave Act. SB 63, as its predecessor (the vetoed SB 654 of 2016) attempted, would prohibit larger employers (having at least 20 employees within 75 miles) from refusing to allow an employee to take up to 12 weeks of parental leave to bond with a new child within one year of the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement as long as the employee has at least 1,250 hours of service with the employer during the previous 12-month period. This bill would also require the employer to maintain and pay for the employee’s coverage under a group health plan during this leave and allow—although not require—an employer to grant simultaneous leave to two employees entitled to leave for the same birth, adoption, or foster care placement.

Employee Request: Injury and Illness Prevention Program. AB 978 would require an employer to provide an employee or the employee’s representative a copy of the employer’s injury prevention program, free of charge, within 10 business days after the employer receives a written request. Under this bill, a recognized collective bargaining agent would automatically be treated as an authorized employee representative. The employer would be able to assert an impossibility of performance affirmative defense.

Bills Stuck in the House of Origin:

Opportunity to Work Act. More expansive than the City of San Jose’s voter-approved Opportunity to Work Ordinance, the much-publicized and employer-feared AB 5 would have required employers with 10 or more employees in California to offer additional hours of work to existing nonexempt employees in California before the employer could hire additional employees or temporary employees. AB 5’s hearing in Assembly Appropriations was postponed by the committee on May 3. Read more on what AB 5 would have implemented here, here, and watch here.

Rest Breaks. AB 817 would have carved out an exception to Labor Code section 226.7’s off-duty “rest period” requirement for employers providing emergency medical services to the public. The bill would authorize those EMS employers to require employees to monitor and respond to calls for emergency response purposes during rest or recovery periods without penalty, as long as the rest break is rescheduled. AB 817 stalled in the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment as the bill’s author, Assembly Member Flora, canceled the hearing.

Retail Employees: Holiday Overtime. AB 1173 would have established an overtime exemption that would have allowed an employee to work up to 10 hours per workday with no overtime pay. Hours worked between 10 and 12 in a workday, or over 40 hours in a workweek would be paid at one and one-half the regular rate of pay. All hours over 12 in a workday and over eight on a fifth, sixth, or seventh day in a workweek would have been paid at double time. This bill never even received a definition to fill in its “retail industry” blank, and was sent to but never heard in the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment.

Voluntary Veterans’ Preference Employment Policy Act. Feeling déjà vu? AB 1477, almost identical to AB 353, detailed above, would have allowed private employers to establish a veterans’ preference policy  and uniformly grant a hiring preference to veteran applicants, regardless of when the veteran served. This bill remained stagnant in the Assembly Committee on Veterans Affairs and Labor and Employment.

Health Professional Interns: Minimum Wage. AB 387 would have expanded the definition of “employer” to include a person who employs any person engaged in supervised work experience (i.e., clinical hours) to satisfy the requirements for licensure, registration, or certification as an allied health professional. AB 387 was amended to only include work experience longer than 100 hours before Assembly Member Thurmond ordered it to the inactive file on June 1.

Resident Apartment Manager Wages. AB 543 would have authorized an employer that doesn’t charge a resident apartment manager monthly rent, to apply up to one-half of the fair market rental value, instead of the two-thirds provided by existing law, of the apartment to meet minimum wage obligations to the apartment manager, pursuant to a voluntary agreement. This bill’s hearing in the Assembly Committee of Labor and Employment was canceled at the author’s request.

Labor Organizations: Compulsory Fee Payments. AB 1174 would have prohibited a person from requiring employees, as a condition of employment, to pay union dues or contribute financially to any charity sponsored by or at the behest of a labor organization. This bill failed to pass the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment.

Employer Liability: Small Business and Microbusiness. AB 442 would have prohibited Cal OSHA from bringing an enforcement action for any “nonserious violation” against any employers with small businesses or microbusinesses without first giving the employer written notice of the violation and providing 30 days to cure. The bill would have authorized Cal OSHA to assess a reasonable fee, up to $50, to cover its costs for enforcement. The bill’s hearing in the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment was canceled at the request of the author.

PAGA: Three Valiant, But Failed, Efforts. 

AB 281 attempted to reform PAGA by (1) requiring an actual injury for an aggrieved employee to be awarded civil penalties, (2) excluding health and safety violations from the employer right to cure provisions, and (3) increasing employers’ cure period to 65 calendar days, up from 33.

AB 1429 would have limited the violations an aggrieved employee can bring, required the employee to follow specific procedural prerequisites to filing suit, limited civil penalties recoverable to $10,000 per claimant and excluded the recovery of filing fees, and required the superior court to review any penalties sought as part of a settlement agreement.

AB 1430 would have required the Labor and Workforce Development Agency (“LWDA”) to investigate alleged Labor Code violations and issue a citation or determination regarding a reasonable basis for a claim within 120 calendar days; and allow an employee private action only after the LWDA’s reasonable basis notification or the expiration of the 120 day period. Read our further analysis of the proposed PAGA amendments here.

All three PAGA reform attempts stalled in the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment.

Workplace Solutions

We will keep you apprised of these continuing Peculiarities, as well as any other significant legislative developments that occur as the end of the 2017 Legislative Session draws near. Contact your favorite Seyfarth attorney with any questions.

Seyfarth Synopsis: On March 30, 2017, the California Fair Employment and Housing Council (“FEHC”) considered proposed regulations on transgender employees. The FEHC also discussed draft regulations on national origin discrimination in the workplace.

Transgender Identity. On March 30, 2017, the FEHC, convened in Sacramento for its second meeting of the year, voted unanimously to adopt proposed regulations on transgender identity and expression, which will go to the Office of Administrative Law for approval. We expect a final text in July. The FEHC first proposed these amended regulations in 2016, which we covered here.

Some highlights: the amended proposed regs would

  • prohibit employers from requiring applicants to disclose their sex, gender, gender identity or expression,
  • protect transitioning employees by expanding the definitions of gender identity and expression,
  • ensure that employees are addressed by their preferred name, gender, and pronoun, and
  • require employers to provide equal access to comparable, safe, and adequate bathrooms, locker rooms, and similar facilities.

Employers can familiarize themselves with the approved regulations now to anticipate questions that may arise in this context.

The FEHC heard public comment over a perceived conflict in bathroom signage required by the proposed regulations and pre-existing Cal-OSHA regulations. The proposed FEHC regulations, consistent with recently enacted legislation (discussed here), require that single-user bathrooms have gender-neutral signage. But the Cal-OSHA regulation, which predates both the FEHC regs and the recent legislation, calls for single-user bathrooms to be for a single gender. The conflict is one of perception only, as the Department of Industrial Relations has clarified that Cal-OSHA will not enforce its rule, and instead will follow the gender-neutral requirement found in the statute (and the proposed FEHC regs). We expect that other agencies may adopt the DIR’s approach, favoring transgender protections over conflicting pre-existing regulations.

Kevin Kish, Director of the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, confirmed the DFEH would consult with the Labor and Workforce Development Agency and Cal-OSHA to ensure consistency in the implementation and enforcement of the regulations.

National Origin Discrimination. The FEHC has also drafted proposed regulations regarding national origin discrimination in the workplace, following recommendations by Legal Aid at Work. The proposed regulations are still in their early stages; as yet, there has been no formal notice of the proposed regulations or a public hearing.

The proposed regulations largely track the EEOC’s new guidance on national origin, which we summarized in our Employment Law Lookout blog here. The draft FEHC regulations address these issues:

  • Defining national origin to include place of birth or ancestor’s place of birth, association or perceived association with a person of a national origin group or ethnicity, Native American Tribe, language, and accent.
  • Harassment and retaliation against undocumented workers.
  • Discrimination based on immigration status, accent, or English proficiency.
  • Workplace language restrictions.

Public comments have addressed the proposed provisions that would curb employer inquiry into an individual’s immigration status. The proposed regulations would permit such an inquiry only where clear and convincing evidence shows the inquiry is needed to comply with federal law. Based on further comment by Legal Aid at Work, we anticipate that further modifications may provide guidance on workplace language policies.

What’s Next? We expect to see more activity from the FEHC in the months ahead. The FEHC will likely revise its proposed regulations on national original discrimination before it issues formal notice of proposed action of the regulation. The FEHC also plans to expand its outreach efforts, seeking further comment from the public and civil rights groups to shape the FEHC’s future agenda. We will continue to monitor and report further developments.

Edited by Colleen Regan.

Seyfarth Synopsis: Heeding some lessons from HBO’s Silicon Valley can help employers avoid mistakes related to potential hostile work environments and discrimination that might occur in a startup environment.

In a world where life often imitates art, startups can avoid perceived gender bias and sexual harassment in the workplace by learning from the pitfalls of the socially awkward team at TV’s fictional startup firm: Pied Piper. In honor of the upcoming return of Silicon Valley, we discuss five lessons for fledgling companies, using situations that may sound oddly familiar to fans of this geek squad.

1. She Loves Me Not: Workplace Romances Gone Wrong

Imagine that your programming engineer is flirting with one of the (few) female engineers on staff. She politely tries to discourage him, but he isn’t taking the hint. What do you need to be concerned about?

Unwelcome conduct based on gender often forms the basis of a sexual harassment complaint. That’s why it’s important to take all complaints seriously and to both quickly and effectively address misconduct. An employer has a legal obligation to prevent harassment. Therefore, startups should have clear anti-harassment policies informing employees of their rights and outlining complaint and investigation procedures in place for addressing such complaints (more on this below).

But what, you ask, if the conduct is welcome? Does that mean all’s well? Not quite. Although California law doesn’t require employers to prevent all employees from dating or pursuing romantic relationships with their coworkers, a workplace romance between a supervisor and a subordinate can lead to prohibited conduct. Why? Such dalliances can lead to harassment or hostile work environment claims, as well as conflicts of interest and morale issues. In addition, some companies may want to consider implementing a “love contract” for peer relationships; review our prior blog post to see if one might suit your company.

2. Promise To Be Nice To Each Other? Pinky Swear? Not Enough

In the rush to open its doors, a startup might not contemplate certain policies until it becomes clear that they are necessary. For example, maybe you didn’t think to launch your startup with a clear anti-harassment policy in place, but are prompted to by the recent hire of a woman into what was previously a small, all-male workforce (think Pied Piper). In this case, would the following policy suffice?

“Essentially, if you find the workplace hostile in any way you can submit a written complaint. It will be completely anonymous. Essentially don’t do or say anything that might offend anyone. Okay? Thank you. That’s the policy.”

While well-meaning, the above policy falls short in a number of ways. California requires that employers prevent harassment in the workplace and take immediate and appropriate corrective action when harassment occurs. But blanket guarantees of confidentiality or anonymity are  impractical because remedial action may require some form of disclosure of the complainant’s identity. In addition, employer policies must use specific language that FEHA and DFEH regulations require. That includes clearly stating that the employer will not tolerate discrimination or harassment on the basis of protected characteristics including: age, ancestry, color, religion, race, national origin, citizenship, creed, ancestry, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, medical condition, pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition, denial of family and medical leave, mental or physical disability, marital status, military and veteran status, and genetic information. It’s also required to designate a specific person to whom these types of complaints can be made—someone other than the complainant’s supervisor. Lastly, it’s important to note that startups with 50 or more employees must provide interactive sexual harassment training to their managers and supervisors every two years (more on this training in one of our previous blog posts).

3. There Are Such Things As Stupid Questions: Discrimination During Hiring

Imagine your Silicon Valley-like CFO “struggles” between hiring a woman and hiring the “best” engineer, falsely believing these are mutually exclusive propositions. This CFO claims to understand the value of diversity, but at the same time, wants to ensure that he hires “the most qualified person for the job. But it would be better if that person was a woman even though the woman part is irrelevant.”

California law, of course, protects against discrimination on the basis of gender, as well as the other protected characteristics mentioned above. An employer’s obligation to prevent discrimination begins with the application and hiring process. Whether it’s by asking questions during an interview that reflect a bias for or against a particular gender, or considering gender when deciding whether or not to hire, employers can expose themselves to liability. It’s important that those with the authority to interview and hire are properly trained with respect to what can and cannot be considered when making hiring decisions.

4. Equal Pay Or Bust

Similarly, what if your previously all-male workforce expresses concern that a newly hired female programmer will be paid the same as her male counterparts?

As previously reported here, as of January 1, 2016, California has one of the most aggressive pay equity laws in the country. It requires that employers pay persons of different genders equally for substantially similar work, or else be able to explain legitimate differences. Recent amendments impose the same rule for employees of different races or ethnicities (which we discussed at length here).

5. Creativity v. Etiquette

You may face a scenario in which certain startup members rely, for creative inspiration, on crude or vulgar language in order to produce the outcome your customers expect. Does the creation of groundbreaking compression software, for example, justify workplace use of vulgar language?

Probably not. Vulgar and crude language, if sufficiently pervasive and gender-specific, may give rise to a hostile work environment. Standing alone, the above scenario might not rise to the severe and pervasive standard required for workplace harassment. But if persistent vulgar language exists, your startup could be in some hot water. If the language is related to or directed toward a specific gender, your version of Pied Piper may ultimately have to pay.

Workplace Solution:

Until we reach a post-gender culture, or until the next tech genius creates an algorithm to perfect these issues, businesses—especially startups—should not be afraid to seek legal counsel on how to best handle these issues in the workplace.

Edited by Michael Cross.

Seyfarth Synopsis: Governor Jerry Brown recently signed pay equity legislation to build on SB 358, a gender pay equity bill that he signed just last year.

Recent state pay equity initiatives (in Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York) have focused on gender. California is different. Leave it to the state that last year passed the nation’s strictest pay equity law as to gender to take it up another notch.  SB 1063, dubbed the “Wage Equality Act of 2016,” extends last year’s Fair Pay Act amendments to Labor Code section 1197.5 to cover unequal pay as to race and ethnicity. Thus, effective January 1, 2017, California employers must not pay employees a wage rate less than the rate paid to employees of a different race or ethnicity for substantially similar work. (Read our prior alert for a description of the Act’s requirements and prohibitions.) Meanwhile, newly enacted AB 1676 will prohibit employers from using an employee’s prior salary as the sole basis to justify a pay disparity. In the process, however, California has declined to follow the Massachusetts example of forbidding employer inquiries into an applicant’s prior salary.

SB 1063 was introduced in February 16, 2016, just four months after Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 358 (one of the nation’s most aggressive gender pay equity bills). The move to include race and ethnicity was foreshadowed last summer when the California National Organization of Women—sponsor of this year’s bill—opposed the Fair Pay Act (SB 358) for its failure to include pay equity protections for various additional categories protected by anti-discrimination laws (such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability status).

Senator Hall, who authored the Wage Equality Act of 2016, justified the opposition by saying that “the 65 year old California Equal Pay Act fails to include one of the largest factors for wage inequity—race and ethnicity.” Senator Hall cited a 2013 study by the American Association of University Women reporting that “Asian American women make 90 cents, African American women make 64 cents, and Hispanic or Latina women make just 54 cents for every dollar that a Caucasian man earns. The wage gap isn’t only between men and women, as African American men earn just 75% of the average salary of a Caucasian male worker.”

Opponents of SB 1063 objected that it would go too far, too fast: SB 358 is still in its infancy,with its standards likely to be tested over the next several years in litigation. Therefore, the opponents argued, “the legislature should allow time for employees, employers, and the courts to interpret and implement the new boundaries of the equal pay law before seeking to amend and expand it even further.” Opponents also noted that employees have other ways to challenge pay discrimination. The Fair Employment and Housing Act already prohibits discrimination against people in many classifications, including race and ethnicity.

AB 1676, which was passed concurrently with SB 1063, will amend Section 1197.5 (the same section SB 1063 amends) to prohibit employers from using prior salary as the sole justification for a pay disparity. In its original proposed form, AB 1676 would have prohibited employers from seeking an applicant’s salary history information, just as its vetoed predecessor, AB 1017, had attempted to do last year. In vetoing AB 1017, Governor Brown stated that further gender pay equity changes should wait until we see how SB 358 plays out. The removal of any ban on asking about salary history likely made AB 1676 palatable to the Governor, and kept California from matching the new Massachusetts law, which prohibits Massachusetts employers from requesting an applicant’s pay history, unless the applicant has voluntarily disclosed that information.

What’s an employer to do? First, self-assess where your company is on pay equity. If you’ve not analyzed the issue before, conducting a proactive pay equity analysis could be the first and best step to take to achieve fair pay and diminish legal risk. Through the use of statistical models and analyses (conducted by a labor economist), employers can test the extent to which permissible factors explain existing pay differentials. This “look under the hood” is especially important for companies considering making public proclamations about the company’s state of pay equity. With SB 1063 now looming on the horizon, companies should not limit these analyses to gender. Engaging legal counsel to direct and conduct this work under attorney-client privilege minimizes risk that this analysis and related deliberations might be discovered in litigation. Even companies that are well-versed in pay equity are wise to revisit the issue with an eye to race and ethnicity. And all companies should review their written policies, practices, and hiring, promotion, and compensation factors to ensure that all comply with the requirements of the California Fair Pay Act.

Join members of Seyfarth’s Pay Equity Group and top labor economists on November 30 for a robust discussion around strategies for navigating the complexities of “pay equity”.

October 11, 2015, was Governor Brown’s last day to sign bills the California Legislature presented to him following the first year of the 2015-2016 Legislative Session. Below is a summary of what did and did not make Governor Brown’s final cut, and some practical tips for California employers to prepare themselves for compliance with these new California peculiarities.

SIGNED BY THE GOVERNOR

Piece Rate. AB 1513, adding Labor Code section 226.2 and repealing sections 77.7, 127.6, and 138.65, will make it even more difficult for California employers to pay employees on a piece-rate basis. Effective January 1, 2016, employers must pay piece-rate employees for rest and recovery periods (and all other periods of “nonproductive” time) separately from (and in addition to) their piece-rate compensation. Specifically, employers will need to pay the following rates for rest and recovery periods and “other nonproductive time”:

  • Rest and recovery periods. Employers must pay a piece-rate employee for rest and recovery periods at an average hourly rate that is determined by dividing the employee’s total compensation for the workweek (not including compensation for rest and recovery periods and overtime premiums) by the total hours worked during the workweek (not including rest and recovery periods).
  • Other nonproductive time. Employers must pay piece-rate employees for other nonproductive time at a rate that is no less than the minimum wage. If employers pay an hourly rate for all hours worked in addition to piece-rate wages, then those employers would not need to pay amounts in addition to that hourly rate for the other nonproductive time.

Employers must specify additional categories of information on a piece-rate employee’s itemized wage statement: (i) the total hours of compensable rest and recovery periods, (ii) the rate of compensation paid for those periods, and (iii) the gross wages paid for those periods during the pay period. If employers do not pay a separate hourly rate for all hours worked (in addition to piece-rate wages), then the employer must also list (i) the total hours of other non-productive time, (ii) the rate of compensation for that time, and (iii) the gross wages paid for that time during the pay period. Signed October 10, 2015.

PAGA. AB 1506, amending California’s Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”) codified in Labor Code sections 2699, 2699.3, and 2699.5, became effective upon the Governor’s signature on October 2, 2015. PAGA, as thus amended, now gives employers a limited right to cure certain wage-statement violations before an aggrieved employee may sue under PAGA. Specifically, an employer can cure violations of the wage-statement statute (Labor Code section 226(a)) with respect to providing either the inclusive dates of the pay period or the name and address of the legal entity that is the employer. An employer can take advantage of this provision only once for the same violation of the statute during each 12-month period.

Employer Liability: Employee Family Member Protected Complaints & Labor Contractor Joint Liability. AB 1509, effective January 1, 2016, amends Labor Code sections 98.6, 1102.5, and 6310 to forbid employers from retaliating against employees for being a family member of an employee who has, or is perceived to have, engaged in activities protected under those Labor Code sections (i.e., generally, making complaints about working conditions or pay, or whistleblowing). The bill also amends Labor Code section 2810.3—added to the Labor Code in January 2015 to impose joint liability on client employers for employees supplied by a labor contractor (our analysis of that law is here)—to exclude from that law client employers that use Public Utilities Commission-permitted third-party household goods carriers, as specified. Signed October 11, 2015.

Expansion of Labor Commissioner Enforcement Authority. AB 970, effective January 1, 2016, amends Labor Code sections 558, 1197, and 1197.1 to authorize the Labor Commissioner to enforce local laws regarding overtime and minimum wage provisions and to issue citations and penalties for violations, provided the local entity has not already cited the employer for the same violation. The bill also authorizes the Labor Commissioner to issue citations and penalties to employers who violate the expense reimbursement provisions of Labor Code section 2802. Signed October 11, 2015.

Labor Commissioner: Judgment Enforcement. SB 588, effective January 1, 2016,  makes various changes and additions to the Labor Code relating to the Labor Commissioner’s enforcement authority. Among other things, it authorizes the Labor Commissioner to file a lien on the employer’s property in California for unpaid wages, and other compensation, penalties, and interest owed to an employee. Signed October 11, 2015.

Industrial Welfare Commission: Wage Orders—Hospital Meal Periods. SB 327 clarifies that existing law regarding a health care employee’s ability to waive voluntarily one of the two meal periods on shifts exceeding 12 hours remains in effect. The bill states that the rules remain the same as they have been since 1993 (as expressly embraced by the Industrial Welfare Commission in 2000). The legislation was adopted to remove any uncertainty caused by the decision in Gerard v. Orange Coast Mem. Med. Ctr., 234 Cal. App. 4th 285 (2015). Signed by the Governor on October 5, 2015, the bill took effect immediately as an urgency measure.

Gender Wage Equality. As we discussed in detail immediately after the Governor’s October 6 signing of SB 358, the bill, effective January 1, 2016, amends Labor Code section 1197.5 to prohibit employers from paying any employee at a wage rate less than that paid to employees of the opposite sex for doing substantially similar work—when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility. The new legislation also requires employers to affirmatively demonstrate that a wage differential is based entirely and reasonably upon enumerated factors, such as a seniority system, a merit system, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or a bona fide factor that is not based on or derived from a sex-based differential in compensation and that is consistent with a business necessity. The bill contains anti-retaliation provisions and provides a private right of action to enforce its provisions.

Kin Care. SB 579, effective January 1, 2016, amends California’s Kin Care law (Labor Code section 233) to tie its protections to the reasons and definition of “family member” specified in the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (i.e., paid sick leave law). The bill also expands coverage of California’s school activities leave (Family School Partnership Act, Labor Code section 230.8) to include day care facilities and cover child care provider emergencies, and the finding, enrolling, or reenrolling of a child in a school or day care, and would extend protections to an employee who is a step-parent or foster parent or who stands in loco parentis to a child. Signed October 11, 2015.

Annual E-Verify Bill. AB 622, effective January 1, 2016, adds section 2814 to the Labor Code to prohibit an employer from using E-Verify to check the employment authorization status of an existing employee or an applicant who has not received an offer of employment, except as required by federal law or as a condition of receiving federal funds. Each employer that uses E-Verify in violation of this new section is liable for $10,000 per violation. Signed October 9, 2015.

Paid Sick Leave Amendments. AB 304, signed by the Governor July 13, 2015, and effective on that date, amends provisions of the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 codified in Labor Code sections 245.5, 246, and 247.5. Read our detailed analysis of this legislation.

Accommodation Request as Protected Activity. AB 987, effective January 1, 2016, amends Government Code section 12940 to overturn the interpretation in Rope v. Auto-Chlor Sys. of Washington, Inc., 220 Cal. App. 4th 635 (2013), that an accommodation request is not a protected activity. The Legislature thus intended to clarify that a request for reasonable accommodation based on religion or disability constitutes protected activity. The Fair Employment and Housing Act, thus amended, will now expressly prohibit retaliation and discrimination against a person for requesting accommodation, regardless of whether the request is granted.  Signed July 16, 2015.

Professional Sports Team Cheerleaders as Employees. AB 202, effective January 1, 2016, requires California-based professional major and minor league baseball, basketball, football, ice hockey, and soccer teams to classify and treat cheerleaders who perform during those teams’ exhibitions, events, or games as employees and not independent contractors.

90-Day Retention of Grocery Workers Following Change of Ownership. AB 359 and AB 897, effective January 1, 2016, adds Labor Code sections 2500-2522 to require a “successor grocery store employer” to retain the current grocery workers for 90 days upon the “change in control” of a grocery store. The new law, previously discussed here also imposes specific requirements on the incumbent grocery store. Governor Brown noted in his signing message an ambiguity in how the law applies if an incumbent grocery employer has ceased operations, and noted the author and sponsor have committed to clarify that the law would not apply to a grocery store that has ceased operations for six months or more. The Legislature responded with AB 897, which will exclude from the definition of “grocery establishment” a retail store that has ceased operations for six months or more. AB 897 signed September 21, 2015.

VETOED: BILLS THE GOVERNOR REJECTED (i.e., “it coulda been worse”)

Arbitration and Pre-Employment Waiver Restrictions. As we recently wrote, AB 465 would have added section 925 to the Labor Code to (i) prohibit companies from conditioning employment offers (or renewals) on the waiver of any Labor Code-related right, (ii) require that any waiver of Labor Code protections be knowing, voluntary, and in writing, (iii) deem any waiver of Labor Code rights conditioned on employment to be “involuntary, unconscionable, against public policy, and unenforceable,” (iv) prohibit retaliation against any person who refuses to waive Labor Code-related rights, and (v) authorize an attorneys’ fees recovery for a plaintiff who enforces rights under the newly created section 925. The Governor vetoed the bill on October 11, 2015. His signing statement says that arbitration is not necessarily less fair to employees, and even if it were, Armendariz provides protections for employees in arbitration proceedings. Any remaining abuses should be addressed by targeted, not blanket legislation. And Governor Brown wants to see the outcome of two pending FAA-preemption cases before considering such a broad blanket prohibition.

Other Pay Equity Bills. AB 1017 (enrolled and presented to the Governor September 15) and AB 1354 (enrolled September 10). AB 1017 would have added section 432.3 to the Labor Code to prohibit an employer from seeking salary history information about an applicant for employment. AB 1354 would have amended Government Code section 12990 to require, of each employer with over 100 employees that is or wishes to be a state contractor or subcontractor, a nondiscrimination program that includes policies and procedures designed to ensure equal employment opportunities for all applicants and employees, an analysis of employment selection procedures, and a workforce analysis that contains the total number of workers, the total wages, and the total hours worked annually, within a specific job category identified by worker race, ethnicity, and sex. On October 11, the Governor vetoed both bills. In vetoing AB 1017, he stated we should wait to see if SB 358—the strongest equal pay law in the country—covers the issue, and did not think this bill’s broad prohibition on employers obtaining relevant information would have any effect on pay equity. In vetoing AB 1354, he stated that the DFEH’s current requirements and powers made the legislation unnecessary.

CFRA Leave. SB 406 would have extended the protections of the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”), Government Code section 12945.2, to care for grandparents, all children (removing any age restriction), and grandchildren, as well as siblings, domestic partners, and in-laws. Vetoed October 11, 2015, because the bill would have created a disparity between FMLA and CFRA.

Athletic Trainers. AB 161 would have made it unlawful and an unfair business practice for any person to use the title of athletic trainer, unless the trainer is certified by the Board of Certification and has completed specified educational or training requirements. Exempt from these provisions were persons who have worked as athletic trainers in California for a period of 20 consecutive years prior to January 1, 2016. AB 161 would have added sections 18898 and 18899 to the Business and Professions Code. Vetoed on September 28,  for the same reasons as the nearly identical measure the Governor vetoed last year—he believes that the conditions set forth in the bill impose unnecessary burdens on athletic trainers without sufficient evidence that changes are needed.

ALRA. AB 561 was this year’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act bill. It would have required the Agricultural Labor Relations Board to process within one year all board orders finding an employer liable for benefits due to unfair labor practices. It also would have required an employer who appeals an order of the Board involving certain awards to employees to post a bond in the amount of the entire value of the order. The Governor vetoed this bill on October 11, because he does not believe the one-year timeline allows for unexpected delays or litigation—even expedited awards take about 18 months. He also noted that, as he did in SB 28 last year, a balanced approach to ALRA enforcement reforms is needed, and encouraged the ALRB to explore internal reforms for more timely awards.

Unemployed. Undeterred by the Governor’s 2014 veto of similar legislation in AB 2271, the Legislature put AB 676 on the Governor’s desk, which would have added section 432.4 to the Labor Code to prohibit employers from publishing an announcement for a job that states or indicates an unemployed person is not eligible for the job, and to prohibit employers from asking applicants to disclose, orally or in writing, the applicant’s current employment status. The Governor vetoed the bill on October 10, because “nothing has changed. I still believe that the author’s approach does not provide a proper or even effective path to get unemployed people back to work.”

Public Employees. AB 883 would have added section 432.6 to the Labor Code to prohibit a state or local agency from discriminating against current or former public employees in publishing job advertisements, in establishing qualifications for job eligibility, and in making adverse employment decisions. The bill would also have prohibited persons who operate job posting websites from publishing any job advertisement or announcement that indicates the applicant must not be a current or former public employee. The bill removed private employers from its scope and removes damages and penalty recovery provisions. Vetoed October 10, 2015.

BILLS THAT FAILED TO MAKE THE FINAL LEGISLATIVE CUT (i.e., “it coulda been a lot worse”)

Minimum Wage Increase. SB 3 would have increased the minimum wage to $11 per hour in 2016 and $13 per hour in 2017. The bill would have also, beginning January 1, 2019, automatically adjusted the minimum wage on each January 1 to maintain employee purchasing power diminished by the rate of inflation in the prior year. Other minimum wage bills on which we previously reported, AB 1007 and AB 669, failed to make it out of the Assembly. This bill, likewise, stalled in appropriations.

Retail Scheduling. The much-feared “Fair Scheduling Act of 2015,” AB 357, based upon the recent San Francisco Retail Workers’ Bill of Rights, was held in the Assembly and ordered inactive in June. Watch for its provisions to reappear in 2016.

OT Exemption. AB 1470 was held in the Assembly at the author’s election. It would have established a rebuttable presumption that employees with gross annual compensation of $100,000 or greater (at least $1,000 per week paid on a salary or fee basis) who regularly perform any exempt duties of an executive, administrative, or professional employee are exempt from overtime pay.

Double Pay on the Holiday Act of 2015. AB 67, Assembly Member Gonzalez’s attempt to require employers to pay employees double pay on Christmas and Thanksgiving, failed passage out of the Assembly. The bill then was ordered to the inactive file by the author.

Workplace Flexibility Act(s) of 2015. AB 1038 would have amended the Labor Code to permit nonexempt employees to request employee-selected flexible work schedules providing for workdays up to 10 hours per day without obligating the employer to pay overtime for those additional hours. The bill did not make it out of its first committee hearing. SB 368 similarly would have allowed a nonexempt employee to request a flexible work schedule up to 10-hour work days, and entitled the employee to overtime for hours worked greater than 10 hours in a work day or 40 hours in a work week.

Voluntary Veterans’ Preference Employment Policy Act. AB 1383 would have amended the FEHA to ensure that none of its nondiscrimination provisions affect the hiring decisions of an employer that maintains a veterans’ preference employment policy established in accordance with the Voluntary Veterans’ Preference Employment Policy Act (Government Code section 12958 et seq.), which this bill would have also created.

Age Information. AB 984, which would have prohibited an employer from using information obtained on a website regarding an employee or applicant’s age in making any employment decision regarding that person, failed in committee.

Unfair Immigration-Related Practices. AB 1065 was also held in committee. This bill would have made it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to request more or different documents than are required under federal law relating to verification that an individual is not an unauthorized alien, or to refuse to honor documents tendered that on their face reasonably appear to be genuine, or to attempt to reinvestigate or re-verify an incumbent employee’s authorization to work unless required to do so by federal law.

Paid Family Leave Benefit Extension. AB 908 would have required the family temporary disability insurance program to provide up to eight weeks, rather than the existing six weeks, of wage replacement benefits to workers who take time off work to care for specified persons, or to bond with a minor child within one year of the birth or placement of the child. This bill also would have required the weekly benefit amount under this program to be calculated using a specified formula.

Workplace Solutions

Follow our Cal Pecs blog www.calpecs.com for more in-depth analysis of how some of the new legislation may affect employers doing business in California.

California State Capitol in Sacramento

The California Legislature adjourned Friday evening, September 11, to close its 2015-16 Legislative Session. It sent a number of employment-related bills to Governor Brown for consideration by his October 11, 2015 deadline to sign or veto the bills. Below is a summary of those before him for consideration, as well as some significant bills he has already signed or that did not make it to his desk. Which private labor and employment bills will the Governor sign into law? We’ll keep you updated…

PENDING BILLS:

Wage and Hour

Piece Rate. AB 1513, if approved, would make it even more difficult for California employers to pay employees on a piece-rate basis. The bill provides that employers must pay piece-rate employees for rest and recovery periods (and all other periods of “nonproductive” time) separately from (and in addition to) their piece-rate compensation. Specifically, the bill would require that employers pay the following rates for rest and recovery periods and “other nonproductive time.”

  • Rest and recovery periods. Employers must pay piece-rate employees for rest and recovery periods at an average hourly rate that is determined by dividing the employee’s total compensation for the workweek (not including compensation for rest and recovery periods and overtime premiums) by the total hours worked during the workweek (not including rest and recovery periods).
  • Other nonproductive time. Employers would have to pay piece-rate employees for other nonproductive time at a rate that is no less than the applicable minimum wage. If employers pay an hourly rate for all hours worked in addition to piece-rate wages, then those employers would not need to pay amounts in addition to that hourly rate for the other nonproductive time.

The bill also would specify additional categories of information that must appear on a piece-rate employee’s itemized wage statement: (i) the total hours of compensable rest and recovery periods, the rate of compensation paid for those periods, and the gross wages paid for those periods during the pay period. If employers do not pay a separate hourly rate for all hours worked (in addition to piece-rate wages), then the employer must also list the total hours of other non-productive time, the rate of compensation for that time, and the gross wages paid for that time during the pay period.

AB 1513 would add Section 226.2 to the Labor Code, and repeal Sections 77.7, 127.6, and 138.65 of the Labor Code. Enrolled on September 16, 2015.

Gender Wage Equality, SB 358, AB 1017, AB 1354. As we recently wrote, there are a few important gender pay equality bills making their way through the Legislature. First, representing what media observers call the nation’s most aggressive attempt yet to close the salary gap between men and women, SB 358 would substantially broaden California gender pay differential law. SB 358 (enrolled and presented to the Governor September 15) would prohibit an employer from paying any employee at a wage rate less than that paid to employees of the opposite sex for doing substantially similar work—when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility—and require the employer to affirmatively demonstrate that a wage differential is based entirely and reasonably upon one or more enumerated factors, such as a seniority system, a merit system, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or a bona fide factor that is not based on or derived from a sex-based differential in compensation and that is consistent with a business necessity. The bill contains anti-retaliation provisions and provides a private right of action to enforce its provisions.

AB 1017 (enrolled and presented to the Governor September 15) and AB 1354 (enrolled September 10). AB 1017 would add section 432.3 to the Labor Code, to prohibit an employer from seeking salary history information about an applicant for employment. AB 1354 would amend Government Code section 12990 to require, of each employer with over 100 employees that is or wishes to be a state contractor or subcontractor, a nondiscrimination program that includes policies and procedures designed to ensure equal employment opportunities for all applicants and employees, an analysis of employment selection procedures, and a workforce analysis that contains the total number of workers, the total wages, and the total hours worked annually, with a specific job category identified by worker race, ethnicity, and sex.

PAGA. AB 1506 would amend California’s Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”), now codified in Labor Code sections 2699, 2699.3, and 2699.5, to give employers a limited right to cure certain wage-statement violations, before an employee may bring a civil action under PAGA. Specifically an employer would be able to cure a violation of the requirement in Labor Code section 226(a) that an employer provide employees with the inclusive dates of the pay period and the name and address of the legal entity that is the employer. The employer would be allowed to take advantage of this provision only once for the same violation of the statute during each 12-month period. The bill’s provisions would become effective immediately upon the Governor’s signing the bill. Enrolled September 11, 2015.

Leaves of Absence

Kin Care. SB 579 would amend California’s Kin Care law (Labor Code Section 233) to tie its protections to the reasons and definition of “family member” specified in the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014. The bill also would expand coverage of California’s school activities leave (Family School Partnership Act, Labor Code Section 230.8) to include day care facilities and cover child care provider emergencies, and the finding, enrolling, or reenrolling of a child in a school or day care, and would extend protections to an employee who is a step-parent or foster parent or who stands in loco parentis to a child. Enrolled and presented to the Governor September 8, 2015.

CFRA Leave. SB 406 would extend the protections of the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”), Government Code Section 12945.2, to care for grandparents, all children (removing any age restriction), and grandchildren, as well as siblings, domestic partners, and in-laws. Enrolled September 16, 2015.

Hiring/Applicants

Unemployed. Undeterred by the Governor’s 2014 veto of similar legislation in AB 2271, AB 676 was introduced and made its way to the Governor’s desk. The bill would add section 432.4 to the Labor Code, beginning July 1, 2016 to prohibit employers from publishing an announcement for a job that states or indicates an unemployed person is not eligible for the job, and from asking applicants to disclose, orally or in writing, the applicant’s current employment status. Enrolled and presented to the Governor September 16, 2015.

Public Employees. AB 883 would add section 432.6 to the Labor Code to prohibit a state or local agency from discriminating against current or former public employees in publishing job advertisements, in establishing qualifications for job eligibility, and in making adverse employment decisions. The bill would also prohibit persons who operate job posting websites from publishing any job advertisement or announcement that indicates the applicant must not be a current or former public employee. The current version of the bill removes private employers from its scope and removes damages and penalty recovery provisions. Enrolled September 14, 2015.

Annual E-Verify Bill. AB 622 would add section 2814 to the Labor Code to prohibit an employer from using E-Verify to check the employment authorization status of an existing employee or an applicant who has not received an offer of employment, except as required by federal law or as a condition of receiving federal funds. The bill would subject each employer that uses E-Verify in violation of this new section to $10,000 per violation. Enrolled and presented to the Governor September 16, 2015.

Other

Employer Liability: Employee Family Member Protected Complaints & Labor Contractor Joint Liability. AB 1509 would amend Labor Code sections 98.6, 1102.5, and 6310, to make it unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee for being a family member of an employee who has, or is perceived to have, engaged in activities protected under those Labor Code sections. The bill would also amend Labor Code section 2810.3, which was added to the Labor Code January 1, 2015 to impose joint liability on client employers for employees supplied by a labor contractor (our analysis of that law is here), to exclude from that law client employers that use Public Utilities Commission-permitted third-party household goods carriers, as specified. Enrolled and presented to Governor September 16, 2015.

Expansion of Labor Commissioner Enforcement Authority. AB 970 would amend Labor Code sections 558, 1197, and 1197.1 to authorize the Labor Commissioner to enforce local laws regarding overtime and minimum wage provisions and to issue citations and penalties for violations, provided the local entity has not already cited the employer for the same violation. The bill would also authorize the Labor Commissioner to issue citations and penalties to employers who violate the expense reimbursement provisions of Labor Code section 2802. Enrolled and presented to the Governor September 15, 2015.

Arbitration and Pre-Employment Waiver Restrictions. As we recently wrote, AB 465 would add section 925 to the Labor Code to (i) prohibit companies from conditioning employment offers (or renewals) on the waiver of any Labor Code-related right, (ii) require that any waiver of Labor Code protections be knowing, voluntary, and in writing, (iii) deem any waiver of Labor Code rights conditioned on employment to be “involuntary, unconscionable, against public policy, and unenforceable,” (iv) prohibit retaliation against any person who refuses to waive Labor Code-related rights, and (v) authorize an attorneys’ fees recovery for a plaintiff who enforces rights under the newly created section 925. Enrolled and presented to the Governor September 3, 2015.

Athletic trainers. AB 161 would make it unlawful and an unfair business practice for any person to use the title of athletic trainer, unless the trainer is certified by the Board of Certification and has completed specified educational or training requirements. Exempt from these provisions are persons who have worked as athletic trainers in California for a period of 20 consecutive years prior to January 1, 2016. AB161 would add sections 18898 and 18899 to the Business and Professions Code. Enrolled and presented to the Governor September 16, 2015.

SIGNED BY THE GOVERNOR

Paid Sick Leave Amendments. AB 304. Read our detailed analysis of this legislation and its effect on the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 provisions it amended (Labor Code sections 245.5, 246, 247.5). The bill was signed by the Governor July 13, 2015, and became effective on that date, as Chapter 67 of the Statutes of 2015. AB 11, which would have included in-home support services under the definition of “employees” under the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act, did not make it out of the Assembly.

Accommodation Request as Protected Activity. AB 987 was intended to overturn any contrary interpretation in Rope v. Auto-Chlor Sys. of Washington, Inc. (2013) 220 Cal. App. 4th 635 that an accommodation request is not a protected activity. By amending Government Code section 12940, the Legislature intended to clarify that a request for reasonable accommodation based on religion or disability constitutes protected activity. With the amendments, the statute, effective January 1, 2016, will expressly prohibit retaliation and discrimination against a person for requesting accommodation, regardless of whether the request is granted. Signed by the Governor on July 16, 2015. Chapter 122 of the Statutes 2015.

Professional Sports Team Cheerleaders as Employees. AB 202 requires California-based professional major and minor league baseball, basketball, football, ice hockey, and soccer teams to classify and treat cheerleaders who perform during those teams’ exhibitions, events, or games as employees and not independent contractors. Adds section 2754 to the Labor Code. Signed by the Governor on July 15, 2015. Chapter 102 of the Statutes 2015.

90-Day Retention of Grocery Workers Following Change of Ownership. AB 359 and AB 897. AB 359 would require a “successor grocery store employer” to retain the current grocery workers for 90 days upon the “change in control” of a grocery store. It also imposes specific requirements on the incumbent grocery store. Look for a separate blog devoted to this important piece of legislation for the grocery industry on www.calpecs.com. Adds §§ 2500-2522 to the Labor Code. Signed by the Governor on August 17, 2015. Chapter 21 of the Statutes 2015.

Governor Brown noted in his signing message an ambiguity in how the law applies if an incumbent grocery employer has ceased operations, and noted the author and sponsor have committed to clarify that the law would not apply to a grocery store that has ceased operations for six months or more. On August 20, Assembly Member Gonzalez gutted and amended AB 897, which previously related to court records, to amend provisions that will be put in place by AB 359 on January 1, 2016 to exclude from the definition of “grocery establishment” a retail store that has ceased operations for six months or more. AB 897 was presented to the Governor on September 15.

BILLS THAT FAILED TO MAKE THE CUT (i.e., “it coulda been worse”)

Minimum Wage Increase. SB 3 would have increased the minimum wage to $11 per hour in 2016 and $13 per hour in 2017. The bill would have also, beginning January 1, 2019 automatically adjusted the minimum wage on each January 1 to maintain employee purchasing power diminished by the rate of inflation in the prior year. Other minimum wage bills on which we previously reported, AB 1007 and AB 669, failed to make it out of the Assembly. This bill, likewise, stalled in appropriations.

Retail Scheduling. The much-feared “Fair Scheduling Act of 2015,” AB 357, based upon the recent San Francisco Retail Workers’ Bill of Rights, was held in the Assembly and ordered inactive in June. Watch for its provisions to reappear in 2016.

OT Exemption. AB 1470 was held in the Assembly at the author’s election. It would have established a rebuttable presumption that employees with gross annual compensation of $100,000 or greater (at least $1,000 per week paid on a salary or fee basis) who regularly perform any exempt duties of an executive, administrative, or professional employee are exempt from overtime pay.

Double Pay on the Holiday Act of 2015. AB 67, Assembly Member Gonzalez’s attempt to require employers to pay employees double pay on Christmas and Thanksgiving failed passage out of the Assembly. The bill then was ordered to the inactive file by the author.

Workplace Flexibility Act(s) of 2015. AB 1038 would have amended the Labor Code to permit nonexempt employees to request employee-selected flexible work schedules providing for workdays up to 10 hours per day without obligating the employer to pay overtime for those additional hours. The bill did not make it out of its first committee hearing. SB 368 similarly would have allowed a nonexempt employee to request a flexible work schedule up to 10-hour work days, and, entitled the employee to overtime for hours worked greater than 10 hours in a work day or 40 hours in a work week.

Voluntary Veterans’ Preference Employment Policy Act. AB 1383 would have amended the FEHA to ensure that none of its nondiscrimination provisions affect the hiring decisions of an employer that maintains a veterans’ preference employment policy established in accordance with the Voluntary Veterans’ Preference Employment Policy Act (Gov. C. Section 12958 et seq.), which this bill would have also created.

Age Information. AB 984, which would have prohibited an employer from using information obtained on a website regarding an employee’s or applicant’s age in making any employment decision regarding that person, failed in committee.

Unfair Immigration-Related Practices. AB 1065 was also held in committee. This bill would have made it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to request more or different documents than are required under federal law relating to verification that an individual is not an unauthorized alien, or to refuse to honor documents tendered that on their face reasonably appear to be genuine, or to attempt to reinvestigate or re-verify an incumbent employee’s authorization to work unless required to do so by federal law.

Paid Family Leave Benefit Extension. AB 908 would have required the family temporary disability insurance program to provide up to eight weeks, rather than the existing six weeks, of wage replacement benefits to workers who take time off work to care for specified persons, or to bond with a minor child within one year of the birth or placement of the child. This bill also would have required the weekly benefit amount under this program to be calculated using a specified formula.

Workplace Solutions

We will continue to monitor and report on these potential sources of annoyance for California employers, as well as any other significant legislative developments of interest. Follow our Cal Pecs blog www.calpecs.com for more in-depth analysis of how some of the new legislation may affect employers doing business in California.